UK EdSec Announces Delay on National Funding Formula

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

UK Education Secretary Justine Greening has announced that the new national funding formula for schools would be delayed by a year, which could prove “catastrophic” to a number of schools in need of funding unless they are offered additional support in the interim.

The government said the new formula was necessary in order to handle the situation of uneven levels of funding occurring throughout England, with some areas receiving as much as £6,300 per student per year, while others receive no more than £4,200.  However, some are still concerned that a new formula will benefit some while others schools in low-funded areas could face budget cuts, writes Judith Burns for the BBC.

Julia Harnden, a funding specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the organization was “extremely disappointed” that the lowest-funded schools in the poorest areas were not going to receiving any additional interim support.

“The financial situation in these schools is already critical because of huge increased cost pressures and the delay in the introduction of the new funding formula is potentially catastrophic,” she said.

Harnden went on to say that without additional support, some schools were in danger of “financial collapse” despite the high-quality leadership in place.

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of school leaders’ union the NAHT, supported her statements, saying that the announcement concerning the year-long delay of funding to schools would be a disappointment to many school leaders.

“We know from the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis that budgets will see a real-terms cut of 8 per cent between now and 2020; flat budgets are not taking account of rising costs, regardless of the distribution of funding,” said Hobby.

Hobby went on to say that it was too late to make any changes to the funding formula for the 2017-18 school year, adding that despite the lack of funding, the announcement at least provides some clarity to schools as to when they can expect the funding formula to continue.

Greening said that details of the new funding formula would be published this fall, with the new system implemented for the 2018-19 school year.  She added that a “minimum funding guarantee” would remain in place that works toward ensuring schools do not lose more than 1.5% of their funding per year, writes Kaye Wiggins for TES.

However, Hobby maintains that the guarantee is not enough, and that schools need more money rather than being told they would not lose much.  “We would press the government to ensure that the most poorly funded schools actually receive more during this transition period.”

While Stephen Morales, chief executive of the National Association of School Business Managers, said he was happy to hear of the guarantee, he added that under-funded schools should be offered some consideration during the transition period.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Simons, head of education at the thinktank Policy Exchange, argued that the decision to delay funding was the correct decision to have made “under the circumstances.”  Simons went on to say that the timing of a different decision would have been too rushed due to several elections and the referendum.

Greening said that while she was “committed to resolving” the issue, she added that she wanted to “make sure … we resolve it effectively so that we don’t have to revisit this funding formula again because we haven’t got it right first time.”