Justine Greening’s National Funding Formula comes under scrutiny

Education secretary Justine Greening has cemented plans for the National Funding Formula which is set to come into effect from April 2018. Following an announcement in the summer that schools will be provided with an additional £1.3 billion between 2018 to 2020, Greening has suggested her National Funding Formula will attract funding of £3,500 per pupil.

With a £110,00 lump sum also in the pipeline for every school and an additional £26 million set aside for those in rural and isolated areas, Greening’s self-acclaimed “fairer funding formula” appears to be a step in the right direction for a struggling UK education system. Supported by a minimum per pupil funding level and cash increases of 1-3% for every school, the system appears to reduce the inconsistencies of the previous provision.
Greening announced “standards are rising across our school system and a fairer funding formula will ensure we can build on that success. We have now made school funding fairer between schools for the first time in decades”.
However, schools may not receive as much funding as they wish with the pot being divided amongst local authorities before reaching schools. Such establishments will remain in charge of propping up each school based on their own local funding formulas.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT union suggested “the opportunity had been missed to ensure that the funding goes directly to schools based on their need. There is a risk that this could perpetuate some of the inconsistencies the formula was intended to address.”
Additional funding for schools is only good news if it is genuinely new money put into the system and LAs distribute it effectively. Whatever the financial result for schools turns out to be, it is important that communication is clear at every level so that schools can incorporate the funds into their planning process as early as possible.
We recently had a very good example of how this can go wrong with the Department’s recent commitment to double to PE and School Sport Premium.  The announcement was made some time ago but schools have only just received notification about their allocation, making strategic investments very unlikely at such short notice.
With the National Audit Office suggesting £3 billion of school cuts have been incurred since 2015, critics have suggested the £1.3 billion made available in this new concept only serves to patch up the funding problems in the education system.