Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

New Funding Formula Details Revealed by DfE Official

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

New Funding Formula Details Revealed by DfE Official

Article excerpt

But disclosures about 'fairer' national system spark fears that there will no real 'winners'

Important new details about the first national school funding formula have been revealed by a senior government official. But experts say that they will leave even supposed "winners" disappointed.

Tony Foot, director of the Department for Education's funding group, told headteachers at a conference in London last week that the long-awaited new formula was likely to be introduced over a five-year period from 2017-18, TES can reveal.

He said that there would be no new money available to cushion the blow for those losing out under the reform. But there would be a "minimum funding guarantee" to cap the amount a school could lose each year.

Mr Foot also suggested that the biggest changes would be delayed until later in the five-year period. This means that few schools affected by the changes are likely to be satisfied. Schools currently in low-funded areas, which are supposed to "win" under the redistribution of money, would be unlikely to see significant gains in funding until the end of the decade.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, said to TES: "The government could be in a classic bind where those that win from [the new formula] won't win enough and it will move too slowly for them, and those that lose will lose too much and it will move too quickly for them."

Jenny Lawrence, a Leicestershire County Council senior finance officer, told the conference that she did not believe the new formula would result in an increase in funding: "Being a low-funded authority, the expectation would be [of] more money, but I don't think that is going to be the case.'"

Political fallout

Concerns were raised as it emerged that a previous attempt to reform the school funding system in 2014 stalled because of high-level fears that it would be politically damaging.

In a TES article to be published later this month, Liberal Democrat MP and former schools minister David Laws reveals that prime minister David Cameron referred to that formula privately as "Michael Gove's plan to lose me the next general election".

"The problem was quite simply that some areas would gain and many would lose," Mr Laws writes.

This week, Chris Healy, the headteacher of Balcarras School, a secondary in Cheltenham - one of the lowest-funded areas - said that the extra funds may arrive too late for his school (see box, "We're at risk of going bust", above).

"Five years is a long time - it would take us beyond this Parliament and into the next one," he said of his school finances. "Things are a lot more urgent than that."

Details of a new funding formula have not yet been finalised and are due to be published for consultation in the next few months. It is thought that ministers are wary of releasing them in full before May as this could risk damaging fallout in the London mayoral elections; it is expected that schools in the capital are likely to be hardest hit.

Speaking at a Capita conference in London last week, Mr Foot said that introducing a new funding formula for schools would be a "challenging process" but added that current arrangements were "still a long way from a system that in any objective sense could be described as fair".

Asked whether it would take five, ten or 15 years to fully implement the new formula, the DfE official said there was "still a debate around that" but added, "If you were pinning me to five, ten or 15, I'd say five. …

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