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The national funding formula: what does it mean for your school?

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Yesterday, the Department for Education published the long-awaited second stage of its consultation on the new national funding formula for schools.

Unlike the first phase of the consultation, which set out the principles that would underpin the new funding system, the second stage is a lot heavier on the numbers. The consultation details the exact weightings that each funding formula factor would receive, as well as what that means in terms of cash values per pupil or per school.

The Department has said all along that the new funding system would produce winners and losers, but what does the introduction of the new formula mean for your school?

1. The winners

The DfE’s own analysis suggests your school is likely to do well out of the funding formula if you:

  • Struggle with low prior attainment
  • Serve pupils who live in areas with above-average levels of deprivation
  • Are in areas where funding levels have been historically low
  • Are small and rural

The Department reckons that the schools standing to gain number 10,740 - that's just over half of all schools.

2. The losers

Here's another number for you: 9,128 schools stand to lose money under the new formula. The schools most likely to come under pressure are those in inner London and other urban areas where historic levels of funding have been high.

Small urban schools also stand to lose out.

The details of the new funding formula make it possible for schools to get a relatively good idea of what their funding will look like in a couple of years’ time. That means that, for just shy of half of the country’s schools, it's time to start making some meaningful efficiencies.

The National Audit Office reckons that it takes about three years for efficiencies to really bed-in and have an impact - so, just about the amount of time you have before the full force of the new formula is felt. The time to start thinking (even more) about getting absolute bang-for-buck is nigh.

Something else also new this week

To accompany the publication of the new funding consultation, the NAO released a report on the sustainability of school funding. It said:

  1. Schools will see an 8% reduction in real-term funding per pupil over the next five years as a result of increasing cost pressures (such as increases in national insurance contributions, rising pupil numbers, and the apprenticeship levy). The NAO adds the costs of inflation to this mix - meaning your money isn't worth what it once was
  2. And that figure is BEFORE you take into account the effect of policy changes such as the removal of the education services grant
  3. Even if your school stands to gain from the NFF, the amount you’ll gain is unlikely to counter-balance an 8% funding squeeze over five years

All of this means that fiddling in the margins is not going to be enough to ensure that changes to funding don’t affect pupil outcomes.

We know from speaking to our members that schools are already working together to get the most out of procurement, and are considering how they can get the most out of their staffing budgets. And working to identify such savings is going to be more important than ever.

But now is also the time to start being proactive about income generation, thinking about cost-effective curriculum modelling, and really getting to grips with the factors that will help you deliver a lean and effective curriculum for your pupils.

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