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Exclusive: Primaries hit hardest under national funding formula

Government's funding plans accused of 'discriminating' against primary schools

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Government's funding plans accused of 'discriminating' against primary schools

Primary schools will be the biggest losers under the government’s funding plans, according to new research carried out by the NEU teaching union and shared with Tes.

The analysis reveals that primary pupils will attract 5 per cent less cash in real terms by 2020, compared with 2015. This represents a £201 cut per pupil over five years, taking account of inflation and rising costs such as increased national insurance contributions.

By contrast, non-selective secondary schools will see their per-pupil budgets fall by 4 per cent in real terms, while grammars will experience a funding drop of just 1 per cent, according to the findings.

The percentage-point difference between future funding for primaries and secondaries equates to many millions of pounds. It is one of the “many unintended outcomes of under-funding the national funding formula”, according to Andrew Morris, the NEU’s assistant general secretary for funding.

The funding gap may be the result of the £4,800 minimum per-pupil amount for secondaries amounting to a bigger uplift on average than the £3,500 minimum sum for primaries.

But campaigners claim it is entirely deliberate on the part of the government. John Coe, of the National Association for Primary Education, said: “The government’s intention, under the new funding formula, to discriminate against primary schools is a disastrous move in the wrong direction.”

Ministers need to recognise the “vital importance of primary education,” he added.

'We should be moving progressively'

Mr Coe commented: “We should be moving progressively towards equalising expenditure on primary and secondary children, and not the reverse.”

Responding to the new figures, Lynn Knapp, headteacher at Windmill Primary School in Oxford, said it is “extremely worrying that primary schools will not be funded as well as secondary schools” overall.

There is clear evidence that children who transfer from primary to secondary reaching the expected levels at English and maths are far more likely to do well at GCSE, according to the headteacher.

A Department for Education spokesperson described the NEU figures as “fundamentally misleading” and said: “They are based on historical data and do not reflect the situation in our schools today. They also ignore the fact that schools funding is driven by pupil numbers and, as pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.”

On average, per-pupil funding is 29 per cent higher for secondary schools than primary schools. But opinion is divided over whether this should remain the case.

While 40 per cent of respondents to the Department for Education’s consultation on the national funding formula were in support of maintaining the status quo, 31 per cent thought that primary and secondary funding should be brought closer together.

In its response to the consultation, the government stated: "There is no compelling evidence or consensus at present that suggests the overall balance should be shifted towards primary or secondary and we proposed to reflect that average in the national funding formula." Under the formula, secondary schools will get a miniumum of £4,800 per pupil and primary schools will get at least £3,500 per pupil. 

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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