Lack of funding is just one of a myriad of pressures schools across the UK are facing. Class numbers are growing while spending per pupil is declining, though despite these challenges, teachers, heads and schools are expected to deliver the same, high level of education to children.
The Local Government Association (LGA) took the issue of school funding to debate in the House of Lords during the final week of November. The briefing acknowledges how every child deserves access to the best possible education, then outlines key messages linked to school funding in the UK. Here’s a recap:
Schools to receive a £1.3bn funding boost
The LGA welcomed the additional £1.3bn in extra funding for schools, which will be allocated over the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years. On top of this is an extra £400m for schools promised by the Chancellor during the most recent Budget, which will be put towards equipment and facilities.
Yet, the full report stressed: ‘[The] government must go much further and replace the existing highly fragmented school capital funding system with a single local funding pot, bringing together existing programmes to create additional places, and rebuild, maintain and repair schools.’
National funding formula (NFF) will exacerbate SEND funding shortfall
The £1.3bn in additional funding across the next two years would mean that no school would lose out under the new NFF, the LGA said. The formula was formed in a bid to resolve disparities in funding between local areas; it came into effect in April, with the government delaying the full rollout in the summer by a year to 2021 to enable a smoother transition.
Introduction of the formula will mean the responsibility of setting budgets for around 22,000 schools will fall to Whitehall, though local government and the LGA agree that this ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t work. The LGA said it is pleased that until 2020 at least, schools and councils have some flexibility when it comes to agreeing slightly different allocations which take into account local needs and priorities.
The LGA also expressed concern that the introduction of the formula, coupled with changes to high needs funding, will widen the gap in funding aimed at supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disability (SEND).
High needs funding gap one of the greatest challenges
The LGA has heard from councils that pressures surrounding high needs funding is one of the greatest financial challenges they face. In response, the LGA has commissioned an inquiry to assess the severity of the issue, with initial findings pointing to a large and concerning £536m funding shortfall for the 2018-19 financial year.
According to research cited in the report, the number of children and young people who have statements for Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans has risen by 21.2% since 2014, from 237,111 to 287,290. At the same time, the number of pupils with SEND who attend special schools has grown by 5.6% in 2012 to 8.8% last year.
The report stressed that if councils do not receive sufficient funding to cover the high costs associated with educating young people with SEND, they will not be able to allocate additional money to highly inclusive schools with higher numbers of pupils with special educational needs. Mainstream schools may also find it hard to accept or retain pupils with additional needs as they might not be able to cover costs for provision from their budgets, which are already stretched.
We’re sure you’ll agree that a £536m potential funding shortfall is a huge concern for the entire education industry, making it virtually impossible for schools to provide children with SEND the right support in the classroom.
Policies need to be put in place, and the right levels of funding need to be secured, to support schools so they are able to offer an equal education to every single child – regardless of their background or educational needs.