Exclusive: Thousands of schools to miss out on improvement funding

Head accuses DfE of 'giving with one hand and taking away with two' after tightening criteria for schools to get £16k support

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Thousands of schools are to miss out on an average of £16,000 in school improvement funding, Tes can reveal.

For primaries, the cut will more than cancel out the £10,000 extra the chancellor announced as a "little extra" in the budget. Heads have accused the government of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

This summer the Department for Education scrapped its £56 million Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF), which had supported 3,500 schools.

At the time it said there would be new "arrangements" for school improvement support. And last week the DfE announced that schools rated ‘requires improvement’ in their last two Ofsted reports that are also below the floor standard or "coasting", would be offered up to £16,000 worth of support.

Tes has now established that the new money is a replacement for SSIF, which offered each qualifying school the same average level of extra funding.

But no more than 792 schools – the number that have been rated RI in their last two reports – will meet the new criteria. So the number of schools receiving the cash will fall by more than 2,700.   

Jules White, headteacher at Tanbridge House School in West Sussex and founder of the WorthLess? Campaign, told Tes: “On the one hand there’s an announcement that we are going to help particularly schools, and I think you always have to say that is welcome, but of course when you look at the wider picture it probably means that other schools are not getting the type of support that they require.

“That seems to be a consistently negative theme, that the DfE seems to try and give with one hand and taken away with two.”

The DfE told Tes that the £16,000 figure was the equivalent of the average amount made available to the 3,500 schools that were supported by the SSIF.

A spokesperson said that funding “has been maintained at the same level per school as under the SSIF”.

He added: “Eligibility to receive the offer has, however, been tightened, compared to the SSIF to focus spend and national leader of education expertise on the schools with the greatest challenges.”

Julia Harnden, of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the union was seeking more information from the DfE about the funding.

“Clearly schools need to be able to access school improvement funding and anything that makes it harder to access it is not going to be a good thing,” she said.

“At a time when funding is so tight, and budgets are under so much pressure, we are concerned if this means that it is going to be harder for schools to access funding for school improvement.”

The announcement of the £16,000 school improvement funding came a week after chancellor Philip Hammond used the Budget to announce one-off payments to schools to buy “little extras”.

The DfE said this would be worth an average of £10,000 per primary school, and £50,000 for secondary schools.



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