Funding the Future: supporting England's schools

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School governors and trustees are responsible for the financial oversight of their schools, which includes deciding how the budget is spent. We are campaigning for the overall size of the schools budget to be increased to improve the provision of education to children and young people.  

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School funding: the situation in 2017

We are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of schools and their ability to offer what should be core services to their pupils.

We lobbied for the new national funding formula (NFF) in principle as a mechanism for achieving fairer funding across England, but as proposed the NFF will not entirely end the school funding postcode lottery and will not make life any easier for many schools in the lowest funded areas. This is in large part because the proposed changes are being made at a time of increasing costs for schools, and therefore the basic amount provided for each pupil is insufficient.

The DfE is operating in silos: its funding approach is not working hand in hand with those looking at school organisation. The DfE wants to encourage schools to group together, but the funding proposals do not incentivise this, in fact they make it more sensible for schools to remain as single entities.

Local authority funding has been reduced in recent years; services and support that schools relied on in the past are no longer available or have to be purchased using existing funds, adding to financial pressures.

The Department for Education (DfE) has improved and increased the materials it produces to support schools to use funds more effectively, but these are not communicated well enough. 

Funding pressure

We are aware that many governors and trustees have acute concerns about their school's budget. Every year NGA and TES carry out a large scale survey of governors and trustees.

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In 2017 we received over 5,300 responses and found funding to be the most prominent challenge reported by governors and trustees. Just 20% respondents told us they are confident they can manage funding pressures without adversely impacting the quality of education for pupils in their school.

To balance their budgets, governors and trustees are already having to take serious action: 47% have already reduced the number of support staff; 40% have reduced spending on building and maintenance; and 30% have already reduced the number of teaching staff. These are stark decisions for people who volunteered to improve education for children.

School Funding: how will it work in future?

On Thursday 14 September, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening announced details of the new national funding formula for schools. This is the outcome of the second stage of the consultation, which closed in March (view NGA’s response), and follows July’s announcement of £1.3 billion additional funding for the core schools budget in each of the next two years.

Key points from the announcement include:

  • funding will be distributed via local authorities for both of the next two years
  • the DfE’s formula will provide for secondary schools to receive a minimum of £4,600 per pupil in 2018/19 and £4,800 per pupil in 2019/20, while primary schools will receive £3,300 per pupil in 2018/19 and £3,500 in 2019/20
  • every school will receive a £110,000 lump sum and an additional £26 million will be allocated to rural and isolated schools
  • every school will see a minimum cash increase of 1% by 2019-20 and many schools will see larger increases
  • an increased emphasis in the formula on low prior attainment

More details are available on the Department for Education’s website including tables where you can see how your school’s budget would be calculated under the national funding formula (NFF). Governors and trustees need to remember that as funding for the next two years will be calculated according to the relevant local authority’s formula their actual school budget may not be exactly the same as shown in the tables.

But there is a vital question to consider: is the overall amount of funding for schools enough? We don’t think it is. We support the principles of the national funding formula. In fact, we campaigned long and hard for it, but ultimately we think it will mean pupils get a fairer share of not enough.   

Take action

NGA has been encouraging governing boards across the country to make their voices heard about their financial situation by lobbying their MPs. 

We are also building up a bank of case-studies to make our argument more compelling to those who may not understand the extent of the problem or the difficult decisions governors and trustees are facing. If you have a story, please get in touch: fay.holland@nga.org.uk 

Local events

Fair Funding for All Schools is a national network of parent activists around the country who are setting up independent parent-led groups attached to schools in their local area, campaigning for more funding for all schools across the country. They believe that it is really important to have an independent parent voice alongside those of governors and school leaders. If there are any parents at your school that may be interested in getting involved, they can find out more by contacting info@fairfundingforallschools.org or visiting the website at www.fairfundingforallschools.org and Twitter at @fairfundschools

What NGA is doing

NGA is engaged in a proactive campaign on behalf of its members. We are:

  • raising your concerns about funding at every opportunity in our meetings with ministers, civil servants and other influencers
  • raising the profile of the schools funding crisis in the national media
  • working with partners to construct a better understanding of the minimum level of funding schools need
  • responding to the government’s schools national funding formula consultation
  • encouraging governors and trustees to take action
Our consultation responses

As any governor or trustee knows, school funding is a complex issue. We have made detailed responses to the Department for Education’s consultations on school funding which are available to download here:

NGA has also recently submitted evidence to the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the Financial sustainability of schools.

The second part of the national funding formula consultation is now closed. You can read more on the provisional allocations the schools, high needs and central school services block here

Further reading

NGA is an independent charity representing and supporting governors, trustees and clerks in maintained schools and academies in England. NGA members have access to a wealth of helpful information in our Guidance Centre: Finance and staffing.  NGA Gold members can call our advice line on 0121 237 3782. If you're not a member, click here for more information about joining. 

 
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