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



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