PRIMARY AND second schools throughout the UK are bracing themselves for a difficult future as details of the Government’s new funding formula become clear.
Under the current funding formula, schools with more challenges – such as higher levels of deprivation among pupils – receive extra funding to “level the playing field” for children across England. The Government has now re-defined this targeting as subjecting children to a “postcode lottery” and is flattening out the funding so that funding per head is broadly similar. This is likely to lead to a widening of inequality between pupils.
In Tower Hamlets, things are looking particularly gloomy, with huge reductions in funding on the horizon. One headteacher is already saying, privately, that school activities would have to be so pared back that it would be hard to see how the National Curriculum could be delivered and the school would just not be “viable”.
The pessimism has been justified by a recent study conducted on behalf of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has found that schools with the highest levels of pupils from poor backgrounds would fare worst.
A statement from teaching trade unions published earlier this year found that 98% of schools were facing real terms funding cuts. The unions calculated that this would be an average loss of £339 per year for primary pupils and £477 for secondary pupils. Now the NUT/CPAG study has calculated that these average cuts would rise to £473 per primary pupil and £803 per secondary pupil in schools in which more than 40% of pupils qualify for free school meals – which is all schools in Tower Hamlets.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of CPAG, said, “If the country – and our education system – is to work for everyone, not just the privileged few, ministers must reconsider the school funding formula.”
NUT General Secretary Kevin Courteney echoed her words, saying that the Education Secretary must “listen to the many voices that are saying her funding proposals are unfair in the extreme and need a complete rethink.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Department of Education claimed that the new funding formula recognised educational disadvantage in its widest sense, because it did not target the worst off families for extra funding but also allocated to funding to schools where pupils’ parents were “just about managing”.
Local teaching trade unions are reported to be very alarmed by the funding cuts, believing that these are bound to lead to job losses, and are understood to be planning a local information campaign.