Fears for funding in North-East schools

SCHOOLS NorthEast is the representative body for all 1,250 schools across the region.

SCHOOLS NorthEast is the representative body for all 1,250 schools across the region.

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Schools are urging the Government to rethink their approach to school funding, otherwise education in the North East will suffer under new, ‘fairer’ arrangements.

Plans for a new formula that will replace legacy funding – which saw schools in the North East worse off by £45million – were announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement.

SCHOOLS NorthEast, the representative body for all 1,250 schools across the region, welcomed the move to a national funding formula, but it has raised concerns that the Government’s planned approach will not get money into schools that need it the most.

Under new plans, the Government intends to pay schools on a per pupil basis with the total amount calculated based on 11 different factors such as low prior attainment, deprivation and sparsity.

But, it then intends to add a multiplier effect – an area cost adjustment – to give more money to schools in high-cost areas so they can pay teachers more.

The Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation on the plans explained: ‘We believe the national funding formula should use an area cost adjustment to reflect variation in labour market costs, given the significance of such costs to school spending’.

Responding to the consultation, SCHOOLS North East urged the Government to remove the area cost adjustment because the rationale was flawed and that it would potentially encourage migration of teaching talent to areas with greater funding, in the midst of an already worrying recruitment crisis.

The first part of the DfE consultation, which sought views on the principles that underpin the formula, has now closed.

SCHOOLS NorthEast will be submitting a response for the second part of the consultation, which has not yet been announced.

Director Mike Parker said: “The new formula was introduced to iron out historic inequality in funding. Ironically, the Government risks fuelling the North-South divide in education by proposing to fund schools with similar characteristics differently, based on their location. This means that our region will be losing funds to the south, where most high-cost areas are located. The rationale behind this is flawed.

“Inflating the budgets of schools in areas of high cost so they can pay more for teaching staff is inequitable and will potentially drain talent from the regions that currently lag the national attainment levels. Pupils here will suffer if that is allowed to happen.

“The North East is already at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to current funding – data shows schools in this area get £45million less than the national average. Our research shows that if schools in the region were funded at the same level as London schools, we would have an additional £360million per year to spend on education. The Government needs to reconsider its approach to the new funding arrangements and ensure that payments to schools are indeed fairer.”