Mixed reaction as Northumberland school funding rises by £7.4million

Core funding for Northumberland’s schools has risen by £7.4million to a total of £187.1million for next year.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 4:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 1:28 am
Stock picture from Pixabay

However, the exact changes in the budgets for individual schools have not been finalised yet, as the county council only received the final 2020-21 figure on December 19.

A report to a meeting of the authority’s family and children’s services committee explained that the 4.1% increase in the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) could be attributed to three main issues.

These are an increase of 105 in the overall number of pupils, a shift in pupils from primary to Key Stage 3 and 4 where there are higher levels of basic per-pupil funding and increases in deprivation funding due to more children being eligible for free school meals.

Given the late arrival of the overall figure, at a meeting of the council’s cabinet, members are expected to approve the delegation of the final figures for each school to the executive director and cabinet member for children’s services – Cath McEvoy-Carr and Coun Wayne Daley.

Councillors are also set to agree a transfer of 0.5% from the main school funding block to the high needs block, down from 1% in the past three years, and the aim is that this is earmarked for special educational needs provision within mainstream schools.

This figure is lower for 2020-21 as, although there remain pressures in terms of increasing numbers of children with Education Health and Care Plans, exclusions and external placements, the deficit in the high needs budget continues to fall.

It dropped from £2.1million in March 2018 to £1.2million last year and is currently forecast to be £911,000 in March this year.

These proposals have already been backed by the schools forum, where it was also agreed that an increased Minimum Funding Guarantee (MFG) level should be used to help those schools receiving the lowest increases in funding.

Director of education Dean Jackson also expressed satisfaction that the Government seemed to have listened to the representations from the county on the three-tier system and how high schools, in particular, can be disadvantaged, saying that this had been ironed out for next year.

Coun Scott Dickinson welcomed the increased funding but warned against describing it all as ‘good news’ given that some of the rise was down to higher levels of deprivation.

Alan Hodgson, a church representative on the committee, also pointed out that while the overall increase was 4.1%, some schools would still only see rises in their funding at levels below the rate of inflation.

Sue Aviston, the council’s head of school resources, said that the MFG would help with this to some extent, but added that for schools with falling pupil numbers, there would be an impact, because so much of education funding is based on pupil numbers.