We all want fairer funding in Cornwall’s Schools

I have been contacted by parents and teachers about information being put in the public domain about school funding in Cornwall. I, as has Cornwall Council, have long campaigned for fairer funding in schools in Cornwall. However, some of the information released by a Union is rather flawed. This has resulted in misinformation being shared.

I am also not often in agreement with the DfE on its funding formula but I share the concerns of the Department for Education over the accuracy of the figures produced by the unions’ calculator.

In the case of Cornwall the figures appear to be based on an assumption of 65,092 pupils in our schools. According to the Autumn census (the most recent figures available), there are currently 70,263 school aged pupils on role in schools in Cornwall (including those in sixth form but excluding those in nursery and colleges.

The level of inaccuracy in the pupil figures used by the unions means that the figures for any cuts in funding are also inaccurate.  We know that education in Cornwall has historically been underfunded by successive Governments but using inaccurate figures in this way does little to support the unions’ case for additional funding and creates concern among schools, teachers, parents and pupils.

The Council has robustly responded to the consultation on the proposed new national funding formula and remain hopeful that, if introduced by the Government, it could mean millions of pounds of extra funding for schools in Cornwall. However, as we said previously, we need to look closely at the detail to see how the formula could impact on individual schools in Cornwall.  The difference in funding allocation will affect schools in different ways, and not all schools will see an increase in their funding.

I am not disagreeing with the sentiment of Cornwall being underfunded and how that must change. However, if you are going to raise the issue, you have to get your data facts right. Therefore, Cornwall Council felt it necessary to issue statement to clarify the situation and in turn stop unnecessary angst with teacher and parents.

 

 

Could Cornwall be set to potentially receive an extra £10m for school funding?

Since I became Portfolio Holder for Children’s Service, I have argued for the Government to address the serious level of under-funding Cornwall’s schools have received. To be fair, education in Cornwall has historically been underfunded by successive Governments. Over the last couple of year’s there has been a slight increase which has helped, but it still has not gone far enough as Cornwall is still one of the worst funded authorities.

If these proposals announced today are implemented following consultation, the new National Funding Formula could see an additional £10 million allocated to Cornwall for school and high needs pupils. However, while this funding has the potential to make a real difference, we need to look closely at the detail to see how the formula could impact on individual schools. Furthermore, the difference in funding allocation will affect schools in different ways, and not all schools will see an increase in their funding. As the old saying goes – the devil is in the detail.

It is also very important to remember that this is only a consultation at this time and things could change – like they often do.  However, anticipating that Cornwall will receive additional education funding,  we would urge the Secretary of State to consider a swift transition to this new formula of no more than three years.

I welcome these proposals in principle and thank the Department for Education for recognising Cornwall’s historic under-funding and taking appropriate steps to address it. I must also say thanks to say thank-you to everyone who has campaigned so hard over the past few years for a fairer, more equitable distribution of funds to pupils.

 

 

 

Government reviews the national funding formula for schools; but will Cornwall be better off?

Yesterday, the Government started its consultation on how it will introduce fairer funding for schools funding. The current funding formula is far to complex and has not been properly reviewed for years. My last blog post on this highlighted the massive differences in how schools are funded in England.

My first thought to this review is about bloody time this is taking place. The sad truth is Cornwall has been at a huge funding disadvantage for too long; with Cornwall being at the near bottom of the pile in funding terms. So I really welcome this review.

In Cornwall, the per pupil funding (total grant divided by school block and Early Years) is £4,781.01. The average for England is £5,255.89. If Cornwall’s children got the national funding average, then we would receive an additional £33.874m in funding for our Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). If the average funding was applied just to the schools block (the general funding block) of the DSG, Cornwall would benefit by £11.16m.

If you want to put this in a ranking system, where 151 is bottom, Cornwall is the 143rd worse funded area. Looking at Cornwall’s neighbouring local authorities, Plymouth being ranked at 91, Torbay at 105 and Devon at 123.

For Cornwall, the rankings can be further broken down into the three blocks of funding that make up the DSG.

  • Schools Block – 92/151
  • Early Years Block – 107/151
  • High Needs Block  – 149/151

In the previous blog I looked at the highest funded areas. The top ten are all London authorities. Has this changed for the figures in 2016-17? The simple answer is no.

Ignoring the top funded authority, the City of London, as it is something of an abnormality, but it is still funded £9,662.31 per pupil, the top ten are still London authorities. The funding ranking of the nearest non-London authority is Manchester at 19.

The top ten best funded areas for 2016/17 are:

  • Tower Hamlets – £8,123.57
  • Camden – £8,004.24
  • Hackney – £7,967.48
  • Lambeth – £7,538.85
  • Southwark – £7,534.13
  • Islington – £7,454.09
  • Kensington and Chelsea – £7,326.78
  • Hammersmith and Fulham – £7,262.94
  • Westminster – £7,188.12
  • Lewisham – £7,036.25
  • (Manchester – £5,994.88)

Our neighbours (per pupil funding) are funded to the tune of:

  • Plymouth – £5,056.72
  • Torbay – £4,989.59
  • Devon – £4,894.25
  • Cornwall – £4,782.01
  • The worst funded area is Leicestershire at £4,679.12

The Government say this review will take into account:

  •  Basic per pupil funding – ensuring a core allocation for the costs of teaching all pupils;
  • Funding for additional needs – including deprivation, low prior attainment and English as an additional language;
  • School costs – including fixed costs and those related to schools serving rural communities;
  • Area costs – ensuring more funding goes to areas that face the highest costs.

The government will phase the changes in over time so that there is a smooth(ish) transition period, manageable for schools and local authorities, including retaining the local authority role in school funding until 2019 to 2020. Although the national funding formula will begin in 2017 to 2018.

In a glimmer of hope for Cornwall, school funding has improved slightly with an uplift of £4.9m in funding last year. At first this was one-off money, but thankfully this amount has now been made a permanent part of the DSG.

Following on from my first thought, my second is how the Government was going to address the massive imbalances in the funding. Take funding away from the top funded areas? If role were reversed and Cornwall was one of the better funded areas, how would we like to have our funding lowered? We wouldn’t. So I doubt the best funded authorities will accept this without a fight.

So to overcome the London authorities kicking off, the Government must find funding to support the worse funded areas. But where will this money come from? My bet is the new allocations will have to be met from existing DfE budgets. And that means something else gets cut to pay for the uplifts.

I guess we will have to wait to find out the outcome…

More blogs on school funding HERE

 

Cornwall Council launches strategy to tackle school places in Cornwall

At yesterday’s Cabinet, the Pupil Place Planning Strategy was approved unanimously by my fellow Cabinet colleagues. The strategy sets out the main challenges Cornwall is facing in meeting demand for school places.

The Council has a statutory duty to ensure there are sufficient numbers of school places to meet demand. However, it is the Government who actually funds this, which is sometime problematic in trying to balance demand, with the actual funding given to the Council. The is further complicated because future capital funding for new and expanding schools is not guaranteed either.

It is no surprise the greatest demand for school places is currently at primary level, with an increase of – 36,319 pupils in September 2009 to 38,630 in September 2014 – more than 2,000 pupils (20%) in five years. The January 2015 school census showed that 50 (21%) of primary schools were operating at or above their net capacity, up from 42 (18%) at the same point in 2014.

The strategy is now only about increased pupil numbers, but dealing with areas where numbers on roll are falling. It will not be a surprise, but this is happening in more rural areas. The strategy sets out the Council’s commitment to provide advice and guidance on the challenges for small schools.

As I said earlier, funding is key for a school place strategy to work in the past, the Government did give Cornwall £7.8m for Targeted Basic Need (TBN), but as previous blogs highlighted, this was not enough to deliver the extra 840 places required. This resulted in the Council having to find the other monies because the true cost of delivering the school spaces was £12m. The TBN schemes are:

  • Indian Queens Primary School – 120 permanent places
  • Mount Hawke Academy – 90 permanent places
  • Nanpean Community Primary School – 120 permanent places
  • St Columb Minor Academy – 90 permanent places
  • St Petroc’s Academy – 90 permanent places
  • The Bishops’ CE Primary School – 90 permanent places
  • Treleigh Community Primary School – 120 permanent places

After the TBN disappointment, the Government did award £31 under the Basic Need (BN) programme for 2015/18. This will help address the issue of school places. The schools in scope for the BN expansion are:

  • Biscovey Primary School – 30 permanent places
  • Charlestown Primary School – 180 permanent places
  • Cubert Primary School – 60 permanent places
  • Luxulyan Primary School – 30 permanent places
  • Pondhu Primary School – 90 permanent places
  • Rosemellin Primary School – 90 permanent places
  • St Agnes Primary School – 210 permanent places
  • St Teath Primary School – 30 permanent places
  • Stratton Primary School – 90 permanent places
  • Tregolls Academy – 210 permanent places
  • Trewirgie Infant School – 30 permanent places

The pressure on primary school places is now beginning to impact on secondary levels in 2016/17. Although there are currently over 5,000 surplus places at secondary level, there are pockets of pressure in certain areas. Bodmin and Wadebridge are the only towns currently experiencing serious capacity issues and options appraisals and/or feasibility studies in relation to expansion are currently underway at both schools. Feasibility studies will also be completed for Saltash.net Community School and Richard Lander School in Truro in order to mitigate short to medium terms pressure which are partly dependent on housing build rate.

Future expansion options are being worked up and including the above projects, the authority has commissioned design consultants to assess the ability for schools to expand across 21 town and rural community network areas in Cornwall. These schools will form part of an options appraisal process which will demonstrate which schools are able to expand and may then progress to full site feasibility. Though how many come forward will be dependent on how much the Government makes available in funding.

The strategy also sets out how the Local Education Authority (LEA) will work with planning officer to make sure larger developments have adequate section 106 funding to mitigate the impact of new homes on school places.

The current education funding element of the Section 106 is £2,736 per qualifying dwelling. This excludes affordable housing as no contribution is due. The Education Funding Agency (EFA) base their costing on £8,500 per places, but in reality in Cornwall, the true cost is anything from £13,000 per place.

Other parts of the strategy include; SEN capital funding, School Loan Scheme, maintenance capital funding, and how schools access their own funding.

On the issue of school maintenance funding, I want to give insight on the scale of the issue we have in Cornwall on the lack of maintenance funding awarded to Cornwall. If you exclude academy schools, we have a maintenance backlog in our schools totalling in excess of £90m, but only having £4m/5m award per year to tackle this backlog.

Even though I have highlighted many of the concerns I have in dealing with school places, the need for adequate funding for both new and expanding schools, and school maintenance funding, I am proud of the work that has gone into this strategy. This is the first strategy of its kind in Cornwall, and those who worked to make this strategy a reality should be very proud of the work contained within. Well done.

 

Cornwall is set to get more money for schools

In a bit of good news, Cornwall, along with some other local authorities, is set to receive a boost in pupil funding. This follows on from a uplift of funding to the tune of £4.9m in the 2015/2016 financial year. This uplift was due to a funding rate harmonisation that is part of the national fair funding formula process.

This funding was initially on a one year only basis, but with a ‘commitment’ from the then government to fund this permanently by adding it into the baseline funding for the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG).

I am very pleased to say this additional funding has now been confirmed so the additional £4.9 million is here to stay and will be incorporated into Cornwall’s grant funding for 2016/2017 and beyond.

A positive bit of news, but Cornwall still remains one of the worse funding areas for schools.

School children in Cornwall continue to be underfunded.

With just 50 days to go until the General Election, political parties from all sides are trying to out-promise each other on how they would improve school in areas like infrastructure and attainment, but as of writing, I have not see how those who want to be in power will address the unbalanced and unfair way per-pupil funding is awarded across England, more so in Cornwall. It is a subject I have raised before in Fairer Funding for Cornwall’s Schools.

To be fair there has been some positive movement on school funding for Cornwall, with an extra £4.8m being awarded to the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) for the 2015/16 period. I welcome this increase in funding, but this extra funding does not go far enough, and does not include early years funding. Furthermore, it seems what the Government gives with one hand, it takes with another. For example, the Education Service Grant – which is used to fund support services to maintained and academy schools – has been cut. The will be cut from £113 per pupil to £87 per pupil. It is slightly worse for academies, as the extra £27 per pupil they receive has been cut completely. And let’s not talk about UIFSM and how that has been funded….

The way the funding is awarded for Cornwall’s schools is by means of something called the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). The DSG is made up of three parts; the schools block, early years block and higher needs block. The total amount awarded to Cornwall’s DSG is £339,346.00. Working out the many different funding streams and the allocation of the DSG is a mystical art (thanks Andy).

Looking at the total amount of funding per pupil  (TPF) – this figure is calculated by adding schools block, early years and higher needs block together and dividing by the number of total pupils –  Cornwall’s TPF amounts to £4,887.11. This figure ranks Cornwall 140 out of 151 in the list Local Authorities funding. That ranking says it all really.

It will be of no surprise to see the top 15 funded Local Authorities are all London Authorities.

City of London £9,660.07 1/151
Hackney £9,248.17 2/151
Southwark £9,170.06 3/151
Westminster £8,619.39 4/151
Hammersmith and Fulham £8,477.54 5/151
Camden £8,340.04 6/151
Tower Hamlets £8,335.65 7/151
Kensington and Chelsea £8,216.98 8/151
Lambeth £8,151.53 9/151
Islington £7,901.04 10/151
Wandsworth £7,387.23 11/151
Lewisham £7,348.92 12/151
Greenwich £7,327.60 13/151
Brent £7,087.11 14/151
Haringey £7,042.40 15/151
Newham £6,946.51 16/151

It is staggering when you look at these figures that a pupil in the Hackney is funded (TPF) near TWICE (1.89%) the amount a pupil in Cornwall is. This is a huge difference that I see no justification for. You also got to ask yourself why there is such a difference in funding as we in Cornwall. It makes me really mad.  Furthermore, I will be clear, I only want our schools to be funded equally, anything less is not fair on our school children. NB: I have not used the City of London as they only have 207 pupils so it would be unreasonable to compare.

When you rank where Cornwall comes compared to other LA’s, in the schools block element of the DSG we come 100th out of 151st.  In the early years block we are ranked 122nd out of 151 and for the higher needs block, Cornwall is two ranks from the bottom of the funding list at 149th out of 151st . I find this totally unacceptable, in fact shameful on how we are funded in Cornwall.

Looking at Cornwall’s neighbouring LA’s of Plymouth and Devon, Plymouth’s schools block is ranked 97/151 in the table of schools block; early years 57/151 and higher needs 69/151. When you look at Plymouth’s TPPF they are ranked at 83 out of 151 with a figure of £5,228.33 For Devon: schools block is listed 119/151 in the table of schools block; early years 123/151 and higher needs 107/151. Devon’s TPF is ranked 130 out of 151 with £4,973.97. I have all the figures for all the LA’s, but I will spare you having to read them all!

Below is are the details on the top 16 funded LA’s compared with Cornwall. I have also included the schools and early years block of the DSG.

LA Total Per Pupil (TPF) Funding Schools Block DSG per pupil Early Years DSG per pupil TPF Rank
City of London £9,660.08 £8,587.04 (1/151) £7,652.48 (5/151) 1/151
Hackney £9,248.17 £8,020.04 (2/151) £7,289.71 (7/151) 2/151
Southwark £9,170.06 £7,902.15 (3/151) £8,338.46 (2/151) 3/151
Westminster £8,619.39 £7,221.15 (5/151) £7,036.00 (8/151) 4/151
Hammersmith and Fulham £8,477.54 £7,388.64 (4/151) £6,434.51 (11/151) 5/151
Camden £8,340.04 £6,457.12 (10/151) £8,884.87 (1/151) 6/151
Tower Hamlets £8,335.65 £7,117.60 (6/151) £8,011.88 (4/151) 7/151
Kensington and Chelsea £8,216.98 £6,635.16 (8/151) £6,548.96 (9/151) 8/151
Lambeth £8,151.53 £6,960.75 (7/151) £7,627.59 (6/151) 9/151
Islington £7,901.04 £6,569.06 (9/151) £8,214.08 (8/151) 10/151
Wandsworth £7,387.23 £6,001.55 (15/151) £5,057.94 (24/151) 11/151
Lewisham £7,348.92 £6,198.57 (13/151) £5,948.88 (14/151) 12/151
Greenwich £7,327.60 £6,332.71 (11/151) £5,150.09 (20/151) 13/151
Brent £7,087.11 £5,723.88 (16/151) £6,044.75 (12/151) 14/151
Haringey £7,042.40 £6,155.64 (14/151) £5,476.49 (17/151) 15/151
Newham £6,946.51 £6,261.19 (12/23) £5,061.70 (23/151) 16/151
Cornwall £4,887.11 £4,464.04 (100/151) £3,670.69 (149/151) 140/151

As for the breakdown of funding per region for the schools block (only), the South West is ranked 5th out of 9th in funding – Cornwall schools block figure is £4,464.04; £111.46 above the South West average.

  1. London – £5393.77
  2. West Midlands – £4,632.20
  3. North East – £4,602.81
  4. North West – £4,565.21
  5. South West – 4,352.58
  6. Yorkshire and the Humber – £4,551.84
  7. South East – £4,349.68
  8. East Midlands – £4,429.14
  9. East of England – £4,411.67

The school block data can be looked at on the different local authority types with:

  • London – £5393.77
  • Metropolitan Authorities – £4,684.07
  • Unitary Authorities – £4,507.43
  • Upper Tier Authorities – £4,359.15

So whilst Cornwall is in a very few places better funded than other LA, it is far behind most. Each LA has its difficulties, but they are similar difficulties. Therefore, funding across the land should be more equal. The same standards and attainment levels are sought by all schools and LA’s.  LA’s are even ranked by the DfE on how well our students do in exams by the measure like achieving 5 x A*- C including Maths and English. Various Keystages have the same exams too. So surely the funding should be the same?! It makes no sense whatsoever to have such large diffferences in school funding. Maybe a solution is the Government could just divide the total amount of funding available by the number of pupils and then award it that way. At least each pupil would get the same and all children are treated equally.

 

 

 

 

 

Cornwall’s Schools to get an extra £4.9m

I very much welcome the news announced today by the DfE that schools in Cornwall will receive £4.9m out of £390m extra pupil funding. Cornwall will be one of the 64 local authorities nationally see an increase in funding.

Before today’s announcement, schools in Cornwall were underfunded by roughly £154 per pupil against the national average (see previous blog on the subject HERE) Today’s extra funding will see an increase of £75 per pupil to £4,472. This rise will be from 2015/16. There is a slight caveat on this, as this amount is subject to final approval in October when the 2014 school census is finalised.

The Council, my colleagues and myself have long argued for better funding for our schools, and todays announcement is a huge step in the right direction on farer funding.

So thank you DfE for listening and giving the schools in Cornwall this much needed extra funding.