Counties claim £1.3bn school boost falls flat of addressing chronic underfunding

County councils have today warned that the £1.3bn funding announced for schools yesterday is positive in the short term, but that more needs to be done to redress inequalities in funding across the country.

Yesterday, education secretary Justine Greening announced a tranche of £1.3bn to support the UK’s ailing schools in order to allow local authorities to increase budgets injected into the sector.

Around £416m of the cash pot will be distributed in 2018-19, before the remaining £884m is added in 2019-20.

“Fairer schools funding – backed by today’s additional investment – will deliver the biggest improvement to the school funding system for well over a decade,” Greening said. “It will mean an increase in the basic amount that every pupil will get, protected funding for those with high needs and will ensure every local authority is in a position to give schools a cash increase through the new formula.

“This means that, with teachers and schools across the country, we can continue to raise standards and give every child the best possible education, and the best opportunities for the future.”

But today, the County Councils Network (CCN) has warned that the cash may not go far enough to support some authorities, including counties, who have suffered from years of austerity.

“This announcement is positive in the short term, and we welcome the government’s re-commitment to the fairer funding formula,” said Cllr Ian Hudspeth, CCN spokesman for education.

“However, it must deliver for counties, who have been grossly underfunded for years. As we will set out in our new report which calls for a ‘new deal’ for counties, government should take steps to redress the imbalances in pupil funding which sees a 47% gap per pupil between inner London and counties on average.”

Cllr Hudspeth also argued it was “imperative” that government did not simply provide an uplift in basic per-pupil funding, as this would not address the historic inequities that have built up.

“Instead, it should seek to implement a baseline of funding that will allow each school to be sustainable in the long term,” he explained. 

“When the revised formula was first announced, there was real concern that rural schools would be adversely affected; we must have an increased weighting for rural funding to ensure these schools are sustainable in the long term.”

And the Local Government Association (LGA) has also said that it was pleased that the government had committed to ensuring no school was worse off as a result of the national funding formula. 

"However we need urgent assurance that it is not coming at the expense of other education provision. We look forward to receiving further details from the Government about where the money is coming from and how it will be distributed," the chair of the organisation's Children and Young People's Board said. 

"Retaining local flexibility over the distribution of school funding is essential and we are pleased that the government has listened to the LGA and local authorities by recognising their role and extending the soft formula until 2019/20.  

“We look forward to working with the Education Secretary on creating more school places through the establishment of 30 new schools in consultation with local authorities, this is something the LGA has long called for," he added.

"However, government must go further in recognising councils’ role in creating school places by giving all councils the power to build schools where they are needed."

Top Image: David Mirzoeff

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