Prepare to be confused. If schools need maintenance or rebuilding, or if new places are required, there are several funding pots. These have different labels such as:
1 Basic Needs Allocation for new pupils places (the Government was accused of siphoning money from this pot to free schools);
2 Targeted Basic Needs Funding: additional funding for extra school places.
3 Priority School Building Programme: for schools urgently needing repair. 580 schools applied – less than half (261) were successful. 46 of these will not receive grants but will be financed by private finance funding.
4 Devolved Formula Capital…
As well as dividing the funding between maintenance, new places and rebuilding disintegrating schools, the money is subdivided between local authority (LA) schools, Voluntary Aided (VA) schools, free schools, City Technology Colleges (CTCs), sixth-form colleges, academies and NIMSS*.
This multiple sourcing is confusing and fuels speculation that academies and free schools receive a larger share of funding. This may or may not be the case** but one school in Brighton, Hove Park School, tells parents that unless it becomes an academy it would not be “listened to” by funding agencies. And the initial rush towards academy conversion was encouraged by the perception that academies would receive more money – a March 2013 survey found.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has come up with a five-point plan to address the problems caused by multiple funding streams. The LGA recommends:
1 There should be single capital pot locally. This would allow LAs and schools to collaborate to ensure capital funding is used in the best possible way.
2 The three-year allocation should be extended to five years. This would allow LAs to plan ahead and commission extra school places.
3 The decision-making powers which LAs once had should be restored. This would allow LAs to direct academies to expand to provide extra places.
4 LAs should have the option of setting up LA maintained community schools. LAs should be able to decide, after consultation with parents and communities, which sponsor would establish an academy.
5LAs should have a greater role in approving free school proposals so they’re set up where needed and don’t contribute to school place surplus. This would help, not hinder, LAs in their statutory duty to manage school place supply.
I would add an extra recommendation: LAs should be able to take academies back under their stewardship if a sponsor or board of trustees wants to close academies, an academy trust decides to divest itself of responsibility for its academies or if the Department for Education removes academies from a particular chain.
NOTES (if you’re not confused about capital funding already, you will be after reading these):
*I’m not sure what NIMSS are – they might be Nurseries in Maintained Sector Schools or Non-Maintained Special Schools – who knows?
**It’s difficult to discover whether academies and free schools receive more funding. My initial suspicion was they were. However, suspicions aren’t enough – they have to be proved with evidence. Devolved Formula Capital, for example, is weighted according to whether it’s for secondary or primary schools. The only way to make sure whether funding is fair is to look at the number of pupils on roll in each school (thanks Andy).
But the spreadsheets aren’t set out identically: the spreadsheet for LA/VA schools shows numbers on roll but the one for academies doesn’t. And the former allows me to select different types of school and stages while the latter doesn’t.
It’s enough to make you go mad (thanks Graham Clarke).
Formatting corrected: 14 Nov 2019