School Basic Need Allocations seem inconsistent. Should LAs complain if they think they’ve been treated unfairly?

Janet Downs's picture
Yesterday I posted a thread asking if the Basic Need Fund allocated by the Department for Education (DfE) would be sufficient to help local authorities (LAs) fund expected shortfalls in school places.

My research revealed an apparent mismatch between money allocated and the top twenty primary and secondary hotspots identified by the New Schools Network (NSN) using DfE figures.

I highlighted Croydon as an example of a local authority which appeared to receive more money than Barking and Dagenham where the projected shortfall was much higher.

Croydon does not appear in the NSN top twenty hotspots for secondary places and is 17th in the top twenty for a shortfall in primary places. Barking and Dagenham had the greatest projected shortfall in primary places and the fifth greatest deficit in secondary places. Yet Croydon received £35m more than Barking and Dagenham. Croydon also received sufficient Targeted Basic Need Funding (TBNF) money to wipe out most of its projected primary shortfall while Barking and Dagenham received no TBNF for primary places.

But perhaps the DfE figures used by NSN were inaccurate. In 2012 Croydon estimated it would need an additional 20 form-entry of secondary places (600) by 2014/15 and a further 12 form-entry of secondary places (360) by 2019/20.

A shortfall of 600 secondary places by 2014/15 should have put Croydon in the list of top twenty secondary hotspots. But it didn’t appear despite NSN saying that it based its top twenty on DfE figures.  This casts doubt on the accuracy of the DfE data which underpinned NSN's lists.

The Basic Need Allocation (see Addendum) seems to bear little relationship to projected 2014/15 shortfalls as identified by NSN. Rutland, with a projected secondary shortfall of 240 places, received only £200k while Brighton and Hove, where the projected secondary shortfall is 49 less than Rutland, was awarded £8m. West Sussex has a projected secondary shortfall which is 578 larger than Redbridge (2,242) but Redbridge received £44m while West Sussex’s allocation was £25.5m. Lewisham (5000 primary shortfall) received £19.5m but Waltham Forest (4,235 primary shortfall) received £36.5

The DfE data used by LSN for its top twenty shortfall lists appears to be out-of-step with LA projections of future need. It’s likely that LA data would be more accurate because LAs know their own area. Even an area with a projected surplus like Cornwall can nevertheless have hotspots like Bodmin where there is a need for more primary places. The DfE, a centralised organisation remote from many areas of England, is less likely to be aware of such local hotspots.

Even so, this doesn’t explain why Barking and Dagenham received such little money when compared with, say, Newham, Waltham Forest and Croydon, or why Coventry received so much less than Bristol.  The formula used to calculate Basic Need Allocation which takes into account school capacity, number of pupils on roll and LAs’ projected pupil numbers for the academic year 2015/16, seems to have been applied inconsistently.

So, should LAs complain if they think they've received less money that LAs in similar or better situations?


ADDENDUM. The total Basic Need Allocation awarded to each LA in the top twenty primary hotspots is listed in order with the LA in greatest need first:

Barking and Dagenham 28m

Birmingham 21m

Central Bedfordshire 18m

Lewisham 19.5m

Ealing 28m

Newham 48m

Waltham Forest 36.5m

Hillingdon 18m

Redbridge 44m

Coventry 12.5m

Brent 22.75m

Bristol 33.75m

Slough 15m

Enfield 14.15m

Hounslow 25m

Croydon 63m

Wokingham 6.5m

Tower Hamlets 16m

Barnet 23m

The total Basic Need Allocation awarded to the top twenty secondary hotspots is as follows (Note: some LAs appear in both lists):

West Sussex 25.5m

Redbridge 44m

Hackney 9.5m

Ealing 28m

Barking and Dagenham 28m

Southwark 13.5m

Lambeth 23m

Harrow 14.5m

Haringey 7.75m

Greenwich 12m

Hammersmith and Fulham 8.5m

Camden 3m

Wokingham 6.5m

Lewisham 19.5m

Westminster* 4.75m

Brent* 22.75m

Barnet 23m

Bolton 4.75m

Rutland 206k

Brighton and Hove 8m

*The position of Brent and Westminster was reversed in the NSN list. Westminster with a projected shortfall of 352 was placed after Brent (projected shortfall 341). It could have been a typo, of course, 341 might have been 441 in which case the NSN ranking would have been correct. Readers will have to make up their own minds whether it’s a typo or whether NSN thinks 352 is a smaller number than 341.

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