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New funding system for schools ‘not sustainable in long term’

Councils have this week criticised the government’s new funding system for schools, which they argue is “not sustainable in the long term”.

It follows the Department for Education (DfE) announcing new measures to “put an end to the historic postcode lottery” for schools funding by ensuring that money is distributed based on the individual needs and characteristics of schools across the country.

The National Funding Formula (NFF) will be supported by the £1.3bn announced for schools in July by education secretary Justine Greening.

It will also provide funding gains for schools across England, allocating an increase in the basic amount allotted for every pupil, a minimum per-pupil funding level for both secondaries and primaries to target the lowest-funded schools, and a minimum cash increase for every school of 1% per pupil by 2019-20.

A £110,000 lump sum will also be made available for every school to help with fixed costs, and an extra £26m will be offered to rural and isolated schools to help them manage “their unique challenges”.

“Standards are rising across our school system and a fairer funding formula will ensure we can build on that success,” said Greening. “It will replace the outdated funding system which saw our children have very different amounts invested in their education purely because of where they were growing up.

“That was unacceptable and we have now made school funding fairer between schools for the first time in decades. It’s a long overdue reform and our £1.3bn extra funding means every school can gain.”

LGA: New system still does not address underlying problems

The LGA’s Children and Young People Board chair Cllr Richard Watts commented that the organisation was pleased that the new funding model recognised the important role councils played in setting budgets for schools locally.

“Councils have been concerned for some time about the growing funding pressures facing support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND),” he explained. “It is therefore right that the government has allowed councils to retain the ability to make additional funding available, with the agreement of schools, to meet the rising demand and pressures for SEND support.”

But the LGA board chair argued that the cash would still not be enough to fully support schools in future.

“Asking schools to meet the shortfall in central government funding for this vulnerable group is not sustainable in the long term, particularly given the huge pressures facings schools’ core budgets,” Cllr Watts stated. “Councils are calling on government to launch a fundamental review of high needs funding in order to ensure we meet the needs of our most vulnerable children.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), also agreed that the new system was unlikely to be enough to fully support England’s cash-strapped schools.

“Setting minimum funding levels for schools is also a welcome move, but we need to examine whether the levels announced today by the secretary of state are sufficient,” he explained. “We fear they are still way too low to allow schools to deliver the quality of education they want to provide and which pupils need.

“The fundamental problem is there is not enough funding going into education. The additional £1.3bn announced by Justine Greening in July was a step in the right direction. But schools have already suffered huge cuts and the additional funding is nowhere near enough to prevent further cuts.”

Barton added that by the ASCL’s calculations, another £2bn per year would be needed by 2020 to fully address the issue of education underfunding.

“The national funding formula does not deal with 16-19 funding which is set at an abysmally low level and is having a major impact on the education of students in sixth forms and colleges,” the general secretary noted.

“It is time the prime minister and the chancellor invested more in the future of our young people and recognised the urgency of an issue which nearly lost them the General Election.

“Parents will expect the chancellor to deliver a better deal for schools and colleges in his budget on 22 November.”

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