Unions issue urgent call for more school funding

Organisations representing 'overwhelming majority' of teachers and heads say funding levels must be increased

Kaye Wiggins

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Five teachers’ and headteachers’ unions, representing the "overwhelming majority" of the profession, have joined forces to warn ministers that school funding levels are "inadequate" and must be increased.  

Their call came today as education minister Ed Timpson announced a renewed pledge to bring in a new school funding formula next year, in a move that heads’ leaders fear will leave schools with little notice of cuts to their budgets.

Sources close to the discussions expect an announcement about the timing for the new formula to be made tomorrow, TES understands. 

Grappling with rising costs

The joint statement from the ASCL, ATL, NAHT, NUT and Voice unions, says that prime minister Theresa May and education secretary Justine Greening should increase school funding "as a matter of urgency".

Schools are grappling with frozen per-pupil funding and rising costs such as employer pension and national insurance contributions, on top of extra costs brought about by an overhaul of the curriculum and assessment, it warns.

"The evidence shows that school funding is inadequate," the statement says. "Any reform to school funding must be based on a recognition of the need for additional funding."

Today Mr Timpson told Parliament in a written statement that details of a new national school funding formula would be published "later this year" and that the government was "committed to introducing the formula from 2017-18".

Plans to bring in a new formula from 2017 were announced in November by then chancellor George Osborne. But details of what the new system will mean for schools have not yet been published, having been put on hold in the wake of the EU referendum result.

Schools are now concerned that there is not enough time to bring in the changes in April 2017, when the financial year for local authority maintained schools begins.

'Transition period' needed

"Schools need a transition period [to the new formula] that is transparent and predictable," Julia Harnden, a funding specialist at the ASCL school leaders’ union told TES. "For those schools that will have to adjust their budgets downwards, they must have a sensible transition period."

She said she did not think bringing in the formula next year would allow for this. Instead, she argued, the Department for Education should use a £500 million fund announced by then chancellor George Osborne in his March Budget to make sure the lowest-funded schools received extra cash in 2017-18, before starting to move all schools to the new formula the following year.

Meanwhile, a well-placed source said introducing the funding formula next year could be politically difficult because it would leave little time for MPs to debate the controversial new system. The formula is expected to involve funding being transferred from schools in Inner London to areas outside the capital, which currently receive lower levels of funding.

The source said that if details of the new formula were to be published for consultation tomorrow – the final day before Parliamentary recess and the end of term for most schools – it would spark controversy.

"The government would run the risk of being seen to be bodging scrutiny of it," they said.

A spokesman for the DfE said more details of the funding formula would be published "in due course".

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Kaye Wiggins

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