Councillors and officers are keeping a close eye on the new national funding formula for schools – and there are concerns about small rural schools.
In November, a report from the county council’s audit committee working group, which was set up to analyse the funding of small, rural schools, proposed a series of actions.
This includes holding meetings with ‘the most financially vulnerable schools to begin a dialogue with them about their financial plans for the future’.
This comes as schools across the country await the full details of the new national funding formula, which will come into effect in September 2017. During a two-year transition period, local authorities will continue to distribute this funding, but from 2020, it will go directly to schools.
The report stated that ‘it is difficult to predict precisely what impact this will have on schools in Northumberland because the precise funding values have yet to be determined.
‘However there are some obviously challenges – small rural schools may find it increasingly difficult to survive. The power of the authority to skew the funding formula to help them may be removed or reduced.’
Last week, it was reported that the working group’s chairman, Coun Anne Dale, said: “Our concern is that the transition impacts adversely on the opportunities for young people. Small schools are clearly vulnerable, as the changes will reduce their budgets.”
However, Conservative leader, Coun Peter Jackson, said that this ‘speculation’ can only be described as ‘misleading’ when draft figures from the initial consultation show that ‘funding for our rural schools in Northumberland has, in the main, been protected and that some of our rural first schools are in line to receive funding increases’.