The new Education Secretary, Justine Greening, has today delivered a Written Statement to Parliament announcing her commitment to introducing fairer funding for schools, high needs and early years.
She comments that she recognises the “overwhelmingly positive response” to the first stage consultations on a National Funding Formula back in March, and that this is a “once in a generation opportunity for an historic change”.
There has been an increased sense of uncertainty in education since Brexit, with many commentators believing this could trigger the Government to abolish its fairer funding plans, so today’s announcement that it remains committed is most welcome.
A second stage consultation will now take place in the Autumn when Parliament re-convenes, and it is expected that a final decision will be reached early in 2017.
The negative side of the announcement is that the new fairer funding system will be delayed by a year, now applying from 2018 to 2019. The reason provided for the delay is to ensure a “wide consultation and getting the implementation right”, although many will see this as a means of justifying a delay given the Government’s other priorities at present.
This delay is undoubtedly a blow to schools in areas which currently receive relatively low funding per pupil and could cause financial problems in schools which do not have sufficient reserves. Most schools have, in my experience, been working to budgets based on what they know, keeping the potential future uplift in the background and so hopefully this delay will not prove too detrimental. Of course schools in the higher funded areas gain the benefit of this for a further year; winners and losers at ever.
Will we see some schools make redundancies and go through restructuring in response to the delay? Probably but, as the education sector knows too well, little is certain when it comes to funding so it is always best to err on the side of caution and be prudent when setting future budgets.
It is welcome that the current minimum funding guarantee for schools, for 2017-18, will be retained, ensuring that no school can face a funding reduction of more than 1.5% per pupil next year in what it receives through the local authority funding formula.
Ms. Greening’s full statement can be found here.