A number of constituents have been writing to me recently about school funding, so I thought it would be useful to put together a summary of the current situation.
The National Funding Formula
In December last year, the Department for Education consulted on a new National Funding Formula (NFF).
The NFF is the new system for distributing core schools funding. It replaces the current unfair and opaque system, under which the amount that each local authority receives for its schools is based on data that is over a decade out of date.
Under the proposed formula at that time Wimbledon schools on the whole would receive more money, but some primary schools lost out.
I raised this with the Secretary of State for Education, and I was delighted when she announced in July that the Government are investing an additional £1.3bn in schools across 2018-19 and 2019-20, over and above existing spending plans.
As a result of this extra funding, core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41bn in 2017-18 to £42.4bn in 2018-19, and £43.5bn in 2019-20.
This extra funding is reflected in the revised National Funding Formula which was published in September. This formula covers funding until the 2019/2020 year, and under this all schools in Merton will receive an increased budget. You can find the full statistics here.
School Cuts Website
The Schoolcuts website is often highlighted to me, which argues that most local schools will have their funding cut. This is not a neutral website, it is a joint union campaign and is fundamentally misleading; under the new national funding formula every school will see a cash gain in Merton.
There are three major ways in which the website is misleading:
- It claims that schools’ costs are rising faster than their income. This is extremely misleading. It is based on a flawed calculation that starts from the base position of school budgets in 2015-16, and then makes a guesstimate of possible cost pressures on school budgets over 4 years. But the website is not clear that this is what it is doing, and it does not reflect that most of these pressures have already been absorbed by schools, and during this period standards have continued to rise. Schoolcuts have quoted the independent IFS saying that schools will face real terms cuts of 4.6% between 2015 and 2019. However, IFS has confirmed that overall funding per pupil across the country will now be maintained in real terms over the next two years. They said in this report that “the average cash-terms increase in funding [per] pupil between 2017-18 and 2019-20 is…. equivalent to a real-terms freeze”. They are clear that any “reductions” in per pupil funding caused by costs such as higher National Insurance relate to 2015 to 2017. Schools have already absorbed these cost pressures.
- The website suggests that schools will lose 30,467 teachers between 2015 and 2020. In fact, we have more teachers in our schools than ever before. There were 457,300 teachers in state-funded schools in England in 2016, 15,500 more than in 2010; and 400 more teachers than in 2015. And teacher numbers are forecast to rise by another 7,700 by 2019-20.
- It suggests that the only way schools can make an efficiency saving is to reduce the number of teachers. This is untrue. Benchmarking and other analysis shows there is scope nationally for schools to make over £1bn of savings on non-staff costs, such as energy and procurement. As above, teacher numbers are rising, and are expected to continue to rise.
What more can we do to help schools
Despite this increase in funding, from my many meetings with parents, teachers and school governors I understand there are funding pressures facing schools. I have written to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Education about four things, which I think are important and would help schools:
- I do not believe schools should pay the full apprenticeship levy.
- I do not believe schools should pay full business rates
- While I welcome funding being linked to pupil numbers, it is important fixed costs are properly reflected. This is particularly important in Merton where the number of pupils, particularly in primary schools, appears to have peaked. There will be costs that schools will have to pay irrespective of the numbers of pupils, and I will seek an assurance from the Department for Education that these are accounted for.
- Funding plans should be published covering a longer period of time. The current National Funding Formula statistics only cover until 2019/2020. It would be helpful if schools could have a clearer idea of their funding further ahead, to help them plan.
As ever, I am happy to hear from any constituents about this or any other matter. Please do email me on firstname.lastname@example.org