School funding changes will fail to tackle 'postcode lottery', heads warn

Thousands of headteachers say the government's controversial changes to schools funding will reinforce existing inequalities

Jonathan Owen

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Headteachers from thousands of schools across England have written to parents today, saying they have a “right to know the facts” about the government’s new funding formula.

Coordinated by Jules White, headteacher at Tanbridge House School, in West Sussex, the letter is being sent by heads from 17 counties.

It tells parents that the government's funding formula will have “profound” implications for their children’s education.

The letter warns parents: “Your child’s education will still be at the behest of a postcode funding lottery." It adds: "Schools in very similar socioeconomic areas will continue to have entirely different levels of funding."

It states: “As headteachers, we simply want to see every child’s school in England funded adequately. It is not about all schools receiving identical amounts of money, but it is about the fair application of a formula right across the country.”

Although there has been some improvement to budgets, the letter says: "We cannot, however, suggest the new formula is, in any way, satisfactory.  The finances of very low funded schools are still insufficient to provide the service that your child deserves.”

Caps imposed by the government on how much schools can gain or lose under the formula are “largely arbitrary," it adds.

And, while better-funded schools gain funding protection, this comes at a cost, according to the heads. The letter states: “In order to fund these protections, the government is limiting what many other low-funded schools will gain under the new formula.” 

It cites research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, revealed in Tes, showing that school budgets will have been cut in real terms by 4.6 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

The letter adds: “In July 2017, the government announced that schools would benefit from £1.3 billion of additional funding.  This does not, however, make up for the £3 billion overall reduction that was already announced and planned for 2015-20.”   

Mr White told TES: "After years of having their schools on the breadline, many heads are dismayed to find that their budgets will often be only marginally better when rising costs are taken into account...many low funded schools are finding that the formula has neither sorted out individual budgets or reduced the vast gaps between schools up and down the country."

He added: "Parents will be asking why is my child's education worth so much less than another pupil living in a very similar socio-economic part of the country? All children will sit the same exams, why should some pupils get massively more financial support and resource than others?"

Responding to the concerns, a Department for Education spokesperson said: “The national funding formula – backed by £1.3bn of investment - will mean that for the first time school funding will be distributed according to a formula based on the individual needs and characteristics of every school in the country. It has been widely welcomed and will put an end to the historic disparities in the system.”

They added: “Our formula will provide significant gains for underfunded schools of up to 3 per cent per pupil in 2018-19 and a further 3 per cent in 2019-20.”



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Jonathan Owen

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