Lowest-funded schools 'will be £2m worse off'
Schools in the lowest-funded parts of the country will receive about £1.9 million less next year than those in the best-funded areas – enough to pay for 40 extra teachers, according to the Association of School and College Leaders.
The union's analysis of Department for Education figures shows that schools in Wokingham, the lowest-funded local authority area in England, will receive £4,158 per pupil next year. By contrast, schools in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, the highest-funded area, will receive £7,014 per pupil.
Schools in the 10 highest-funded areas will receive an average of £6,297 per pupil in 2015-16, compared with an average of £4,208 per pupil in the 10 lowest-funded areas.
ASCL has calculated that for a typical secondary school of 920 students, this equates to a budget of £5.8 million in the best-funded areas and £3.9 million in the most poorly funded – a difference of £1.9 million.
The difference would pay the salaries and pension contributions of 40 full-time teachers.
The figures cover local authority “schools block” funding, which makes up the lion’s share of schools’ budgets. However, they do not include additional funding from the pupil premium.
ASCL will use its annual conference in London this week to call for a national fair funding formula.
Deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said that, although it was right that schools in London and deprived areas received extra to meet their higher costs, school funding still represented too much of a “postcode lottery”. School funding was based too heavily on “historical factors” that went back to the 1980s, he said.
“Instead of reforming the system, successive governments have tinkered with it and failed to fully resolve the problem,” Mr Trobe added. “It means that many schools must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.”
Suzanne Richards, headteacher of The Holt School in Wokingham, said her school’s budget had fallen by £200,000 since 2011-12, with a further £150,000 cut expected this year.
“There have sadly been some staff redundancies already and only essential staff are being replaced if anyone leaves voluntarily,” she said.
“We have reduced the number of sixth form and to a lesser extent GCSE-level courses, and we have increased class sizes in Years 7 to 9.
“We have cancelled work experience placements this year. Repairs and maintenance and IT replacement have been put on hold."
Andy Baker, ASCL branch secretary and headteacher of Poole Grammar School, said: “Children in Poole have a range of needs which are not dissimilar to those in other authorities, yet we have significantly less funding.
“There are pockets of deprivation in Poole, just like any borough, and we do not think that the funding formula accurately reflects the reality of need in Poole.
“It is particularly galling when schools are judged on the same terms by performance data, but disparities in resources are not factored in.”
He said the school struggled to recruit specialist staff and to retain good staff.
A Department for Education spokesperson said it had "protected" the per-pupil schools budget since 2010, and had committed to introducing a national funding formula after the next spending review.
“We have put an extra £390 million into the schools budget for 2015-16 to increase the per-pupil budgets of the 69 least fairly funded areas. This will, for the first time, mean a minimum level of funding for councils based on the characteristics of their pupils and schools, and is the biggest step towards fairer funding in a decade.
“In addition the Pupil Premium now worth £2.5 billion this year to schools – is ensuring teachers continue to have the resources they need to give all pupils the best possible start at school, regardless of their background," the spokesperson added.
Five lowest-funded areas
1 Wokingham - £4,158 per pupil
2 Poole - £4,194 per pupil
3 South Gloucestershire - £4,196 per pupil
4 West Sussex - £4,206 per pupil
5 Stockport - £4,206 per pupil
Five highest-funded areas
1 Tower Hamlets - £7,014 per pupil
2 Hackney - £6,680 per pupil
3 Lambeth - £6,384 per pupil
4 Hammersmith & Fulham - £6,248 per pupil
5 Islington - £6,229 per pupil
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