Over the past two years, our members have been getting to grips with changes to the way schools are funded. The government said in 2012 that it wanted the system to be “fairer, simpler, more consistent and transparent”. The first round of reforms took effect in April 2013 and more changes were introduced this year.
Funding for maintained schools is allocated by local authorities (LAs) using a formula set after consultation with the local schools forum. Previously, LAs decided what factors to include in their formulas. Now, they must include two mandatory factors – a basic per-pupil entitlement and the level of deprivation – and can also include a limited number of optional factors. Changes to these formulas also affect funding in academies, as the money they receive from the Education Funding Agency is based on the amount maintained schools in each LA are allocated. Members of our school leader service can read more about funding arrangements for this year in our article on funding for 2014/15.
As a senior researcher specialising in funding, I’ve been following how these changes are affecting schools. School leaders have also been asking us what further changes they can expect. In March, the schools minister David Laws announced extra money for schools in the lowest-funded LAs. The DfE is currently consulting on how this money will be distributed, but no further details on funding for 2015/16 have been announced. The minister said the funding was a step towards a national funding formula, but the BBC says the government has dropped plans for this until after the next general election.
What does this mean for schools? Well, pupils with similar needs in different areas will continue to be funded at different levels. And schools will continue to be expected to reach similar standards with different levels of funding. Would a national funding formula be fairer? How does it fit with localism – giving councils more of a say in spending to meet local needs?
We’ll be keeping a close eye on this debate, and will be updating our articles as we learn more.