Funding cuts 'will hit schools with poorest pupils hardest'

New interactive map shows how individual schools could see budgets change by 2020

Helen Ward

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Schools with the highest number of disadvantaged children will be hit worst by proposed government funding cuts, say unions.

The NUT and ATL say that schools with the highest number of children on free school meals will face cuts amounting to £578 per pupil in primaries and £780 per pupil in secondaries, if the changes go ahead as predicted.

And they add that no local authority area will have schools which are better off in real terms, even after allowing for a new formula which redistributes money.

“No headteacher should be put in the position of increasing class sizes, leaving building repairs undone or cutting staff and resources simply to balance the books,” said Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

“Nor should any parent accept this for their child. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We can and we should be funding our schools properly.”

The unions have launched an interactive map – – of England’s schools which shows their estimate of how plans to redistribute funding would impact on individual institutions.

The formula used is based on the government’s spending plans, Institute for Fiscal Studies projections, rising inflation and other cost increases and the new funding formula proposed by the f40 group of local authorities.

The unions estimate that overall 92 per cent of schools and academies could expect to suffer a funding fall by 2020.

They estimate that:

  • Primary schools will be on average £96,481 or £401 per pupil worse off in 2020.
  • Secondary schools will be on average £290,228 or £365 per pupil worse off in 2020.

Analysis by the unions has also found that the ten per cent of schools with the highest number of pupils on free school meals will face the biggest cuts. 

A fairer school funding formula has been long fought for because per-pupil funding rates vary so widely across the country, from £7,007 per pupil in Tower Hamlets to £4,151 per pupil in Wokingham in 2015-16.

The government had originally pledged for the new funding formula, which will change the way the national schools budget is distributed, to be in place by 2017-2018, that has now been delayed until 2018-19.

But the unions say that more money is needed in the system.

“We urge the government to increase the overall funding for schools,” said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL teaching union. “If it just reallocates the existing budget many children will lose out, with some of the most deprived children being hit hardest.”

Last month, heads in West Sussex – one of the most poorly funded authorities – warned that budget cuts could mean schools having to consider moving to a four-day week.

And the NUT and ATL estimates come after a parliamentary debate earlier this week on schools funding in West Sussex.

“There is no fat left,” Tim Loughton, Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham told MPs. “There is no money left in the reserves. There is virtually no leeway left for our headteachers somehow to juggle these finances.

"There is an urgent and critical need to recognise that we have a funding shortfall now and we have to have some help in the form of transitional funding.”

Caroline Dinenage, education minister, replied that the second stage of consultation on the school funding formula would be announced in the next few weeks.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "This would appear to be irresponsible scaremongering, based on figures that are entirely speculative. As the NUT and ATL’s own report admits, they do not even reflect the government's proposed fairer funding formula for schools, which is yet to be published.

“In reality the schools budget has been protected and in 2016-17 totals over £40billion, the highest ever on record. The government's fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system."

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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