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Exclusive: Funding formula 'privileges' grammar schools

Formula branded 'fundamentally unfair' after Tes investigation shows latest changes particularly benefit grammar schools

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Formula branded 'fundamentally unfair' after Tes investigation shows latest changes particularly benefit grammar schools

The government's latest changes to the national funding formula for schools have hugely benefited grammars, a Tes investigation reveals.

Grammar schools are now 24 times more likely than primaries, comprehensives and secondary moderns to have their budgets boosted by at least 10 per cent by 2019-20, the analysis shows.

Under earlier plans, no school would have seen its funding grow by more than 6 per cent over two years. But the final version of the formula, published last month, will hand double-digit percentage increases to 313 schools, of which 51 are grammar schools.

Grammar schools account for 16 per cent of the schools that will do best out of the new funding arrangements, taking 26 per cent of the extra funding permitted because of the lifting of the 6 per cent "cap".

'Funding betrayal'

This represents a significant reversal of fortunes for a group of schools that were set to lose out under the original version of the formula, dubbed a “funding betrayal” by the Grammar School Heads’ Association (GSHA) when it was released last year.

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “The national funding formula was supposed to fund all schools fairly and according to their needs, but these figures show that the government’s failure to provide enough funding overall is failing to achieve that.”

Dr Bousted argues that many grammars will be “better protected than comprehensives and secondary moderns” as a result.

NEU’s assistant general secretary, Andrew Morris, who has responsibility for funding, warned that the system will leave schools with the least deprived intakes better protected, which many will see “as fundamentally unfair.”

And the concerns were echoed by Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union. “The information that the funding may be privileging grammar schools over others requires urgent investigation as it appears to indicate the formula is anything but fair,” she said.

Aim to help

The double-digit budget increases are largely due to the fact that, although schools will have annual budget increases capped at 3 per cent up to 2019-20, they will be allowed to exceed this to reach “minimum” per-pupil funding – amounting to £4,800 for secondary pupils.

The aim is to help those schools that, because of the demographics of their intake, receive little or no extra funding for the additional needs of pupils, such as those from deprived backgrounds, with low prior attainment or who speak English as an additional language.

The disparity between grammar and non-grammar schools is also highlighted in new research by the House of Commons Library, commissioned by shadow education secretary Angela Rayner and shared with Tes.

It reveals that grammars will receive a 7.6 per cent rise – more than the 3.6 per cent average rise for schools as a whole. It is a big change from the original proposals, in which grammar schools were expected to lose 0.6 per cent of their funding, compared to a 0.9 per cent average gain across all schools.

The government has given “a huge boost to the remaining grammar schools”, says Ms Rayner. “Grammars had lost out in the first formula, mainly because they took so few pupils from deprived backgrounds, and these figures suggest that there are questions about why that has changed so dramatically for this small group of schools.”

'Regional disparities'

However, grammar school heads argue that the disparity is because schools that have been traditionally less well-funded are being brought up to the same level as other schools.

Jim Skinner, chairman of GSHA, said: “This is not a grammar school issue, this is a low-funded school issue...there is a minimum per-pupil funding level below which a school simply can’t operate.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The national funding formula makes no distinction between types of schools.”

“Some institutions that have been historically under-funded because of the regional disparities in the previous system will see bigger increases than others. The majority of these are not selective schools.”

This is an edited article from the 13 October edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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