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School cuts

Government consultation

The government is consulting on schools funding until 22 March 2017.  You can find the consultation on education.gov.uk.

It is fairly technical in nature, so we have prepared the following notes to help you complete it. Our notes are for guidance only – your answers will carry more weight if you are able to use your own words.  Some questions are more important than others. If you have limited time, please just answer the ones where we have suggested an answer.  When you are completing the online consultation questionnaire, you can skip any questions on which you have no opinion by clicking ‘continue’ at the bottom of the page.

Guidance notes

Warrington has an all-schools position on all the questions in the consultation. You can read these below or download a copy of the consultation questions and explanations [pdf] 

Question 1:

In designing our national funding formula, we have taken careful steps to balance the principles of fairness and stability. Do you think we have struck the right balance?

Response :

No

Explanation:

  • Proposed formula does not offer the right balance between the various factors. Moving funding from basic per pupil funding to additional needs is dangerous when so many schools are struggling to service their basic responsibilities. If additional need is identified it should not be at the cost of all pupils. It should be additional funding.
  • There is a weakness of evidence for many of the proposals and a continued use of  averaging which reflects current funding but doesn’t challenge it.
  • There is no clear definition of what the government is funding, which makes it difficult to understand the impact it will have. Further clarity is needed on what is actually being purchased.
  • The funding proposed per student per year for Warrington is less than the actual cost of providing a basic education for that child. As a result, many schools are facing severe cuts, which will impact on the quality of education and care offered to pupils across Warrington. Cuts could include:
     
  • Reduced teaching and support staff
  • Increased class sizes
  • Cuts in pastoral care and support services
  • A narrower curriculum
  • Fewer extracurricular activities
  • Little or no budget for resources including text books or IT
  • The 3% funding floor and Area Cost Adjustment lock in historical and geographical differences in funding for different areas. Pupils of similar characteristics should attract similar levels of funding wherever they are in the country. The funding formula needs to be fair and should be applied to all schools on a consistent basis.

Question 2:

Do you support our proposal to set the primary to secondary ratio in line with the current national average?

Response :

No

Explanation:

  • Secondary schools require a marginally higher level of funding than primary schools as the associated costs at secondary level, such as specialist teaching and facilities are greater. Adopting a ratio based purely on national average, does not represent a true estimation of costs. Amounts and weightings need to be evidence-based with reference to actual costs.
  • The government should carry out detailed research to find out what the ideal ‘Primary to Secondary’ ratio should be before making any changes. If this is clearly evidenced, we will support it.

Question 3:

Do you support our proposal to maximise pupil-led funding?

Response:

Yes , we agree in principle but question whether the proposals will achieve this.  In the short to medium term, we consider that the distribution of the lump sum could be managed locally in line with local priorities and local authority’s sufficiency duties.

Explanation:

  • Reducing the lump sum below prevailing levels on the basis of encouraging collaborative savings which are likely illusory is an unacceptable politicisation of a funding model. This factor alone is responsible for much of the loss of funding Warrington primary schools are facing.  Again, an evidence-based approach could be supported.

Question 4:

Within the total pupil-led funding, do you support our proposal to increase the proportion allocated to the additional needs factors?

Response:

No - allocate a lower proportion

Explanation:

  • The total amount for additional education needs factors should be lower, at about 14%.  While we welcome additional funding targeted at need, it should be just that – additional – and not delivered by chronic underfunding of basic entitlement.
  • At least 75% as a minimum is provided so that every child, regardless of where they live, should receive a basic minimum amount to fund their education.
  • Reducing the current figure by 4.1% is fundamentally unfair.

Question 5:

Do you agree with the proposed weightings for each of the additional needs factors?

Response:

Allocate a lower proportion to all sub-questions

  • The total amount for additional education needs factors should be lower, at about 14%.  While we welcome additional funding targeted at need, it should be just that – additional – and not delivered by chronic underfunding of basic entitlement.
  • At least 75% as a minimum is provided so that every child, regardless of where they live, should receive a basic minimum amount to fund their education.
  • Reducing the current figure by 4.1% is fundamentally unfair. Where schools attract relatively low levels of additional needs funding, there needs to be confidence that basic funding is sufficient to cover the costs of running the school. The additional needs funding should be as the name suggests – additional, and to support creative additional programmes for pupils, not prop up the funding for the majority of pupils.

Question 6:

Do you have any suggestions about potential indicators and data sources we could use to allocate mobility funding in 2019-20 and beyond?

Response:

We have no comment on mobility as this is not a serious issue for Warrington.

Question 7:

Do you agree with the proposed lump sum amount of £110,000 for all schools?

Response:

Allocate a higher amount to both secondary and primary.

Explanation:

  • The funding level suggested is significantly below the current national average. We are unconvinced that the lump sum should be the same in each sector, which does not take account of cost differentials, but certainly believe it should be higher than in the proposal.

Question 8:

Do you agree with the proposed amounts for sparsity funding of up to £25,000 for primary and up to £65,000 for secondary, middle and  all-through schools?

Response:

If the proposals are intended to be a nationally-applicable model, it runs against this concept to include factors which are specific to a small number of local authorities.

Question 9:

Do you agree that lagged pupil growth data would provide an effective basis for the growth factor in the longer term?

Response :

The use of lagged pupil growth data appears to be a reasonable interim approach to funding growth.  However, we would support a fundamental review of how growth in existing schools and new schools is funded.  As we implement a national funding formula, there needs to be a consistent approach and guidance to funding growth and new schools.

Question 10:

Do you agree with the principle of a funding floor?

Response:

No

Question 11:

Do you support our proposal to set the funding floor at minus 3%?

Response : 

No  - floor should be lowered.

Explanation:

  • The existing MFG is sufficient and there is no need for additional protection . The MFG mechanism provides stability to schools.

Question 12

Do you agree that for new or growing schools (i.e. schools that are still filling up and do not have pupils in all year groups yet) the funding floor should be applied to the per-pupil funding they would have received if they were at full capacity?

Response:

No. We are concerned that this would artificially inflate the funding of new/growing schools.

Question 13:

Do you support our proposal to continue the minimum funding guarantee at minus 1.5%?

Response:

Yes. The continuing -1.5% per pupil MFG provides sufficient protection to schools on an ongoing basis. This mechanism should be maintained instead of a funding floor, where the funding is decreasing.

Question 14:

Are there further considerations we should be taking into account about the proposed schools national funding formula?

Response:

Yes

Explanation:

  • Education Services Grant (ESG) - The removal of the ESG will have an impact on all schools. Academies will have costs which were supported by the ESG which they will need to fund from their General Annual Grant. Local authority cuts are likely to lead to additional charges to maintained schools.
  • Area Cost Adjustment - Clarity required over dampening effect of Area Cost adjustment. Clearer justification of the use of the hybrid methodology required.
  • Movement between blocks - By ring fencing the Schools Block, the High Needs Block (HNB) becomes very exposed. The majority of pupils in schools without SEN will be protected by the Schools Block ring fence: the majority of pupils that need extra help will get a cut-price service. Suggest either increase the funding into the HNB to ensure that it is adequate for pupils that need the most help, or to enable schools via their Schools Forum to allow movement between blocks.
  • Schools Forum and Local Expertise - Clarity required about the ongoing purpose of the Schools Forum. The members of Schools Forums and locally elected councillors have many years of combined experience of the management of schools. By moving to a funding formula managed from the centre, this local expertise risks being lost. 
  • Capacity of EFA to consider local issues We question the ability and capacity of the Education Funding Agency to be able to properly consider all the data it uses and to work with schools to apply the necessary local knowledge to a national funding formula.
  • Auto-registration for free school meals
  • We suggest that there ought to be auto-registration for free school meals. We believe the DfE should seek to remove the need for parents to apply for free school meals, and that this should become an automatic entitlement for all who are eligible.

Question 15:

Do you agree that we should allocate 10% of funding through a deprivation factor in the central school services block?

Response:

No, 10% is too high.

Question 16:

Do you support our proposal to limit reductions on local authorities' central school services block funding to 2.5% per pupil in 2018-19 and in 2019-20?

Response:

Yes

Explanation:

As this will be a new sub-stream, trying to achieve too much too soon is inadvisable.

Question 17:

Are there further considerations we should be taking into account about the proposed central school services block formula?

Response:

Yes

Explanation:

Clarity on whether changes for 2018/19 will be ‘baked in’ for all time. Circumstances change and historical commitments will not be valid forever.

Question 18:

Is there any evidence relating to the 8 protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010 that is not included in the equalities impact assessment and that we should take into account?

Response:

Nothing to add