Rural schools to have funding boost trebled

Government attempts to quell fears that schools in the countryside will be left financially unsustainable

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The government has increased the amount of money being targeted at rural schools following fears that a planned funding overhaul threatened their survival.

Details of the final version of the national funding formula for schools, published yesterday, reveal that funding levels for rural schools will rise by an average of 3.9 per cent in 2019-20, up from the 1.3 per cent outlined in earlier plans.

Primary schools in remote rural areas will see their funding rise by an average of 6.7 per cent on average, compared with the 5.3 per cent they would have previously gained.

Overall, schools in the most remote areas will gain 5 per cent – up from 3.3 per cent.

As education secretary Justine Greening announced in July, all schools will now see their funding grow in cash terms by at least 1 per cent. But unions say this is not enough.

The changes announced yesterday are aimed at helping smaller schools by lifting the ceiling on the maximum amount of cash that can be gained by any school over two years, in certain circumstances. Further details will be set out in technical guidance, which is yet to be published.

Funding pressure on smaller schools

The "minimum" funding amounts being introduced, of £4,800 per secondary pupil and £3,500 per primary pupil, are partly an attempt to address concerns about funding pressures faced by smaller schools and those in areas of low deprivation, according to a document published by the Department for Education yesterday afternoon.

It says: "We have listened carefully to what we heard through the consultation about the importance of basic per-pupil funding, particularly for those schools where few pupils attract funding through the additional needs factors.

"That is why in addition to increasing the value of the basic amounts, we have introduced an additional factor in the formula, which will provide a minimum per-pupil funding level over the next two years."

The majority of respondents to the DfE's consultation on the formula wanted schools to receive more of their cash in the form of a lump sum, "primarily because of concerns about the viability of small schools and those schools that do not attract sufficient funding through the additional needs factors", it says.

The document adds: "We have responded to the concerns raised about these schools through the wider changes we have set out in this document (such as the minimum per-pupil funding levels)." 

But Andrew Morris, assistant general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said he remained to be convinced that the changes did enough to help small rural schools.

“We’ve still got concerns about the funding, especially about smaller rural primary schools being disadvantaged. We’re checking the figures carefully to see what the position is in the final version,” he said.

The proposed £110,000 lump sum was far lower than many local authorities were currently providing, he added. 

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