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NGA responds as school budgets are revised downwards

tools-resources money jar half full

The Department for Education has issued an urgent update regarding the updated schools national funding formula (NFF), in response to an error made by the DfE during the initial calculations of the NFF.

While the department has insisted that the recalculated formula will maintain “record levels” of funding, an original plan of a 2.7% increase per pupil in England for 2024/25 has now been amended downwards to 1.9%.

In a letter from the DfE’s permanent secretary, Susan Acland-Hood, to the chair of the education select committee, it was confirmed that the Dfe “have uncovered an error made by DfE officials during the initial calculations of the NFF” with an acknowledgement that “the correction of this error will be difficult for local authorities and frustrating for some school leaders”.

The Secretary of State has subsequently asked the Permanent Secretary to conduct a formal review of the quality assurance process surrounding the calculation of the NFF, with independent scrutiny.

In response to the announcement, NGA’s Co-CEO’S Emma Knights and Emma Balchin said:

“This is an incredibly significant error occurring at a time when schools and trusts needs stability and financial security. While we understand the DfE is right to point out that schools have not yet received their 2024-25 funding, trusts and local authorities will have used these figures in their budget planning which will have to be reviewed. This will mean governing boards will now have to make even more incredibly tough decisions, when they were already having to prioritise funding some areas of core needs above others.

With data just this week from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) alerting us to the fact that any additional funding in recent years is funnelled to simply keeping schools from sinking, and balancing the budget topping of the list of primary challenges of boards at 52% in NGA’s 2023 annua governance survey, this news is unpalatable for schools leaders and boards. NGA’s recently published manifesto, calls for the next government to ensure funding is reviewed to “ensure that as well as all schools receiving sufficient funding to sustain high quality education, they can meet the additional needs of vulnerable groups” but we also simply must ensure that current funding levels are not depriving children and young people from the quality education they all deserve”.

Ahead of our next leadership forum event on funding and budgets, NGA’s Director of Policy and Communications, Sam Henson has written a blog exploring funding pressures and the heightened challenges caused by managing school estates.

This news from the DfE makes NGA’s virtual leadership forum, where attendees will have the opportunity to question the DfE directly on their funding concerns, even more important.