Government plans designed to tackle “unfair” and “inconsistent” funding across England’s education system are going to lead to cuts in most schools, according to teacher unions. Critics are warning that the changes could even threaten the actual viability of more than a thousand small rural schools, despite assurances that they would be protected. This goes against Justine Greening’s claims that “our proposed reforms will mean an end to historical underfunding for certain schools”.
The Department for Education is currently consulting on a national funding formula for schools and this is expected to become operational in April 2019. The consultation sets out how they intend to deliver a fairer and more transparent funding system. Two schools with the same needs will receive the same level of financial support, regardless of their location in the country. Funding will initially be allocated to local authorities for them to distribute and then provided to schools directly.
More needs to be done
The Association of School and College Leaders, which represented heads in secondary schools and colleges, examined official figures on the funding proposals and discovered that one of the lowest funded areas in the UK (Cheshire East and Trafford) stands to receive even less money. This leads to serious questions about the government’s admirable desire to “end the postcode lottery” and suggests they need to go back to the drawing board. ASCL’s Interim General Secretary, Malcolm Trobe, believes the government needs to “put more money into the system and make education a political priority”.
The problem appears to be caused by the fact that the overall education budget is effectively being frozen at a time when schools are experiencing an increase in operational costs. Recent changes in teachers’ superannuation and increased National Insurance contributions has cost one school in North Yorkshire an additional £170,000 a year. It’s also worth pointing out that increases in the minimum wage are further examples of higher direct costs that are not being supported through incremental funds. Phil Loftus, Head Teacher at Norton College, one establishment set to receive an increase in funding (albeit a barely noticeable £13,000), predicts that “school budgets will decline by a further eight percent leading to real budget challenges in schools. The additional monies received by no means covers the shortfall in funding the school is experiencing”.
Moving away from the past
A spokesperson for the Department for Education, said the current process for distributing school funding was “outdated” and the proposals will put an end to this by giving a cash boost for more than half of all England’s schools by 2019. This is all very well and good, and Eteach supports the fact schools will be allocated more money to support the vital service they provide to the country as a whole. But if the very people that are running schools and their professional associations are challenging the government’s proposals, it suggests that something needs to be done and quickly to tackle the current funding crisis being felt across the country.