How will funding cuts affect your school?

Fiona Millar's picture
 12

The last week has not been good for schools worried about money. The Chancellor seems immune to warnings about the state of school funding. The education focus of his budget was the creation of new  places in free schools, some of which will be grammar schools if the legislation limiting selection by ability is changed.

 He also announced money to cover the travel costs of pupils from disadvantaged homes who might get into grammars and a capital investment pot that is only a fraction of what our crumbling schools actually need.

 As I wrote here last month in the Guardian, the funding situation has been muddied, probably conveniently for ministers, by the conflation of two different issues, On the one hand there is a massive budget shortfall caused by government giving schools a “flat cash” settlement over the last few years. This doesn’t take into account rapidly rising costs, in particular national insurance and pension contributions, which effectively mean school budgets are being cut dramatically.

 The National Audit Office predicts that schools will need £3billion just to stay even in the rest of this parliament. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests per pupil funding will be cut by 6.5% taking us back in real terms to the level of the mid-2000s while the share of national income spent on schools is back to the levels of the early 1990s.

 I have heard it suggested that this means it isn’t a real cut, because we have been so lucky in the intervening years, but the bottom line is that schools still have to adjust fast and that will be painful.

 Meanwhile ministers are consulting on a new funding formula for all schools. The reasons for this are set out here. Billed as a way to equalize historic funding inequalities, it is based on a core financial settlement per pupil then topped up for deprivation and other local factors.

 Very few people are happy with this plan –without new money in the school system it will inevitably mean redistribution from some of the better-funded authorities to the worst off. So the losers are angry and some of the would be winners feel it doesn’t go far enough, which is probably inevitable if you are simply slicing up a pie that isn’t big enough in a different way.

 What will this mean for pupils and parents?

There is a lot of grass roots activity about this issue. Campaigns are springing up all over the country amidst signs that Tory MPS in even the safest shire county seats are getting a bit twitchy.

 In West Sussex, where the WorthLess campaign was launched after Christmas, governors are considering going on strike. In East Sussex there is FlatCashEd and Essex heads have launched a campaign called Educ8% to draw  attention to the level of cuts their schools face.

 Parents elsewhere are now being urged to get involved as heads nationally highlight the inevitable changes that will follow the predicted cuts. There are reports of GCSE and A level subjects being cut, schools closing early, larger classes, staff redundancies, heads being obliged to appoint cheaper, less well-qualified staff and even the threat of four day weeks in some areas.

As Janet Downs wrote here earlier this month, there is also growing evidence that schools in better off areas are asking parents to cough up and make financial contributions to cover their deficits, which will inevitably penalise children in poorer areas whose parents aren't able to do this. It is impossible to see how this situation won’t lead to more inequality and poorer outcomes all round.

 Are the funding cuts starting to bite at your school? If so how? You can reply to this post, write a blog yourself, or e-mail us in private here. Help us build up a picture of what is going on around the country in these difficult, unprecedented, times.

 

 

 

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Comments

agov's picture
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 07:01

"the funding situation has been muddied, probably conveniently for ministers, by the conflation of two different issues"

And possibly even more conveniently for the unions as they have been at the forefront of diverting attention away from the proposed new funding formula by conflating it with overall funding levels. Presumably the unions are scared of upsetting their members in those areas that have historically been overfunded relative to similar but much less well funded areas.

The issue with the new funding formula is not that it redistributes away from the richly provided for areas in favour of the areas that have been deprived for decades. It is rather that very little is taken away from those richer areas - there is a "3% funding floor, which ‘locks in’ historical differences" seeming to thereby destroy much of the intended purpose of the review. In addition there is, at least in some areas (- I have not seen any detailed analysis: possibly too many vested interests), a significant redistribution away from the already poorly funded primary sector towards the splendid secondary sector, presumably to offer greater profits to academy owners. There seems (again, in at least some areas) to be more redistribution within the historically under-funded areas than towards them. The view of the f40 group can be read here -
http://www.f40.org.uk/2017/01/30/f40-says-government-has-fallen-short-on...

Some areas have not yet completed their response process to the government's consultation on the new formula, which does not close until 22 March and can be found here - https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-fu...


Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 09:27

'overfunded' v 'underfunded'?  Could it be that the allegedly 'overfunded' LAs were receiving adequate funding while the 'underfunded' ones did not?  What we appear to be having now is a proposed redistribution of an inadequate pot with the claim that it will be fairer.

London LAs, historically funded at a higher level than most other LAs, wrote 'we will be responding to the government’s consultation on the basis that there should be a levelling up of schools funding across the country.'  Note: 'levelling up' not 'levelling down'.   Jonathan Simons, then head of Policy Exchange, was sceptical about London's argument saying 'File that one under “well you can’t blame them for trying”' (both comments are on p18 of a Common Briefing Paper into School Funding in England downloadable here.)

However fair the new funding formular may be, it won't solve the problem the looming school funding crisis if the total amount is insufficient.

 

 


Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:31

I think it is wrong to suggest that any area is "richly provided for" at the moment and I am a governor in a London schools so know how the impact of the flat cash settlements are playing out in the capital. Heads and governors in London are clear that we believe the less well funded areas should get more money - we want to bring everyone up to a sufficient level to run a  well functioning school that can meet the needs of all its pupils. However this must be done with extra investment rather than pitting everyone against each other. I completely understand the  anger in the areas that expected more, but there must be a transitional arrangement  which enables the losers to plan for their losses, which also come on top of the 8% predicted cuts due to rising costs. The simple way to deal with this is for the government to inject more money into the system and any campaign should  stick to that line.


Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:35

I think it is also worth pointing out that the reason some London boroughs, including the one where I live, are historically well funded is because our ( Labour) council took a decision to invest more of its own money in schools before the Dedicated Schools Grant was introduced in the mid 2000s. As a result differential funding arrangements were baked into the new formula, but these were essentially the result of political decisions which local people supported, and paid for. Other areas could have taken the same route, but chose not to. I don't think that justifies children in those areas being penalised now but it is important to remember some of the history.


agov's picture
Mon, 13/03/2017 - 07:27

"I am a governor in a London schools so know how the impact of the flat cash settlements are playing out in the capital"

And what do you suppose is occurring in the areas so much less well provided for?

"we want to bring everyone up to a sufficient level"

Lovely. Still no reason to fund some areas so much more congenially than other similar areas.

"must be done with extra investment"

Why? London education types got their mates in Westminster to build in advantages for themselves so let's keep it that way?

"there must be a transitional arrangement"

Which is the transitional bit?

"8% predicted cuts due to rising costs"

The last IFS estimate I saw changed it down to 6.5%. Just saying.

"any campaign should stick to that"

As those who have so benefited from an unfair system will no doubt happily agree.

"the reason some London boroughs...are historically well funded is because our ( Labour) council took a decision to invest more of its own money in schools"

And the reason some London boroughs have so much money to spend is because London has ensured that the rest of the country gets as little as possible. A situation that the New Labour Government spent 13 years doing nothing about despite so much of its (former) support not being in London - even George Osborne and Theresa May have been more concerned about (former) Labour areas.

"Other areas could have taken the same route, but chose not to"

Other areas couldn't take the same route when they had so much less to start with. When they did put more money into education it still amounted to very little compared to the resources some parts of London could throw around. The national system was supposed to compensate for different resource bases in different areas not continue the injustice.


agov's picture
Mon, 13/03/2017 - 07:27

"I am a governor in a London schools so know how the impact of the flat cash settlements are playing out in the capital"

And what do you suppose is occurring in the areas so much less well provided for?

"we want to bring everyone up to a sufficient level"

Lovely. Still no reason to fund some areas so much more congenially than other similar areas.

"must be done with extra investment"

Why? London education types got their mates in Westminster to build in advantages for themselves so let's keep it that way?

"there must be a transitional arrangement"

Which is the transitional bit?

"8% predicted cuts due to rising costs"

The last IFS estimate I saw changed it down to 6.5%. Just saying.

"any campaign should stick to that"

As those who have so benefited from an unfair system will no doubt happily agree.

"the reason some London boroughs...are historically well funded is because our ( Labour) council took a decision to invest more of its own money in schools"

And the reason some London boroughs have so much money to spend is because London has ensured that the rest of the country gets as little as possible. A situation that the New Labour Government spent 13 years doing nothing about despite so much of its (former) support not being in London - even George Osborne and Theresa May have been more concerned about (former) Labour areas.

"Other areas could have taken the same route, but chose not to"

Other areas couldn't take the same route when they had so much less to start with. When they did put more money into education it still amounted to very little compared to the resources some parts of London could throw around. The national system was supposed to compensate for different resource bases in different areas not continue the injustice.


Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 12/03/2017 - 10:18

The reason education spending rose in the 2000s was to compensate for a fall between 1990/91 and 1998/99.   The increases  were needed to compensate for underfunding when the Tories were last in power.  They weren't generous funding which we can now cut back as some argue.

In September 2015, the IFS said school spending had been ‘relatively protected’ since 2010.  But this was a ‘real-terms freeze’.

After the real-terms freeze comes the real-terms cut.  This is the first time since the mid 1990s that ‘schools have seen real-terms cuts in spending per pupil’ (IFS here).

 

 

 


agov's picture
Mon, 13/03/2017 - 07:29

"Could it be that the allegedly 'overfunded' LAs were receiving adequate funding while the 'underfunded' ones did not?"

It was decade or two ago that a headteacher outside London told me that she had headteacher friends in London with so much money in budget that they literally did not know what to spend it on.

"redistribution of an inadequate pot with the claim that it will be fairer"

Whatever the size of the pot there is still no justification for arbitrarily funding some areas far better than other similar areas. Talking about the size of the pot is again conflating two different issues for which there can be no reason other than to frustrate the original point of having a review.

Which bit of 'relative' is problematic?

"increases were needed to compensate for underfunding"

Nothing to do with a new funding formula.


Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 13/03/2017 - 08:33

agov - I recognise the compensatory funding during Labour years has nothing to do with the new funding formula.  That's why my two comments - one on the possibility that 'overfunded' LAs may have been receiving adequate funding when other LAs were not and the second on the need for education funding to rise in the 2000s to 'catch up' - were separate.  

I accept a review of how education spending is distributed was long overdue.   But fairer distribution (if that's what we end up with) doesn't alter the fact that education funding is inadequate.  That isn't 'to frustrate the original point of having a review'.  It's stating the obvious.  

 


agov's picture
Tue, 14/03/2017 - 10:42

Nor does it alter the fact that inadequate funding is no justification for treating some as less equal and deserving than others.


Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 13/03/2017 - 09:40

The elephant in the room here is that the government doesn't really know how much it costs to run a school and provide a decent education for every child. This comes through clearly in the evidence given to the recent Select Committee hearing on school funding ( from the IFS and Education Policy Institute). Without that basic knowledge they are making decisions in the dark, and there is a real possibility that some schools will go under.  The entire funding review should have started from this point rather than just build on what has gone before.


agov's picture
Tue, 14/03/2017 - 10:43

And yet some outside the indulged areas have not much trouble in recognising new injustice threatening to replace the old - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39254635


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