Fairer funding or help to the most advantaged?

Henry Stewart's picture
Today the government announced its proposal for "Fairer Schools Funding in 2015-16". It lists 62 local authorities that will gain from this change and states that " No school or local authority will lose money as a result of this proposal" as "every other local authority will see its per pupil funding maintained in cash terms".

Read that carefully. Funding will be maintained "in cash terms". Taking account of inflation, any schools that receive only the same level of cash faces a cut in what they can afford. So what can we tell about which areas gain and which ones lose.

Coalition-led authorities are the winners

The local authorities that will gain most are Surrey (£24.8 million), Cambridgeshire (£20.5 million) and Bromley (£19.1 million). This gives a clue as to which parts of the country will gain. All of these have levels of disadvantage that are well below the national average.

Of the Inner London local authorities, only one will gain. That authority, Westminster, is Conservative-led.
Of the 11 Outer London Tory or Liberal authorities, 6 are in the winners list
Of the 9 Labour-run Outer London authorities, only 2 are in the winners list

My thanks to @BorisWatch for those calculations. And my thanks to @politic_animal who checked the 62 local authorities nationwide who gain, and reckons only 14 are Labour-led. Perhaps formula changes are justified but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the formula has been changed in a partisan way.

More funding for the most advantaged

The coalition has stated its commitment to helping the most disadvantaged and the pupil premium has been a step towards this (although it has partly replaced other forms of funding). So will the funding formula changes provide further help to the most disadvantaged? It appears not:

Disadvantaged pupils in the winning authorities: 23.4%
Disadvantaged pupils in the others: 34.2%

Taking only the top 10%, the 15 local authorities that gained most, the proportion of disadvantaged pupils is just 21.8% - well below the national average of 26%.

In conclusion, the funding changes will mainly help Conservative and Liberal authorities, and provide extra money to the areas with low levels of disadvantage. Is this really the best use of an extra £350 million of funding.


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James Harvey's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 23:33

Dear Mr. Stewart: Thanks for this informative post. In 2012, I led a group of American school superintendents on a study mission to England. When we met with Department for Education officials, they explained their plans to equalize expenditures on the most disadvantaged students by contrasting the unfair additional resources disadvantaged children in Tower Hamlets received compared to the resources provided per pupil to the disadvantaged in Shropshire.

Honest, that was the comparison. They probably thought no one in the room understood the significance of Shropshire (rural and sparsely populated) compared to Tower Hamlets (a byword for dense poverty for centuries), but it was immediately clear to me that in equalizing per-pupil allocations, DfE would have to take money from areas of concentrated urban poverty and reallocate it to much less sparsely populated rural areas.

Phil Taylor's picture
Fri, 14/03/2014 - 08:11

Thanks Henry. 'Twas ever thus: 'To him that hath shall be given.....

As the head of a school situated in the most deprived ward in England and working for a supposedly left-wing Council, I came across this all the time.

Keep up the good work.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 15/03/2014 - 08:30

Nigel - Wilshaw is right: the lessons learnt from the London Challenge should be extended nationwide. That said, Wilshaw seems to have missed some of those lessons. The London Challenge wasn't about parachuting in "superheads" - it was about collaboration, cooperation, target setting, continued professional development and teachers realising they had a commitment to all the area's children not just those in their own school.

The Challenge was careful to match partners sensitively. That might not be the case if "superhead" comes flying in through the door.

Brian's picture
Sat, 15/03/2014 - 17:27

Agreed Phil. I was head of a school where part of its catchment area appeared in a
National newspaper article with a photograph captioned 'Is this the most deprived street in Britain?' I also recognise the situation Henry describes.

Alan Bowles's picture
Sun, 16/03/2014 - 10:20

In the detail of the proposal , one can see that by setting the deprivation factor associated with IDACI low and the sparsity factor high, the values are distorted in favour of the county shire children as opposed to the city deprived children. on whose definition is this a fairer system. at the same time rumours are circulated that the statement that schools who do not benefit will receive the sme budget is about to be distorted by a graeter part of the burden of pensions falling on the schools themselves effectively reducing their budget

Alan Bowles's picture
Tue, 18/03/2014 - 15:10

A follow up to my earlier comment and supporting the view of Henry Stewart, there is nothing fair about the recent announcement of fairer funding. The authority which receives the most extra ( Surrey) has already got higher than national averages in Level 4 and 4b passes at Ks2 and higher progress in English and Maths in secondary schools and higher than national averages for % A*- C GCSE passes . I thought fairer meant that resources followed need. apparently not. if you want to describe this as electioneering, that's fine but not 'Fairer'.

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