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School funding – the national context

The average amount of per pupil school funding individual local authorities in England receive each year varies. This funding is then passed through a local formula before being given to individual schools. This means that there are differences in the amount of per pupil funding received by individual schools.

Critics argue that these disparities are unfair, and that funding should be based explicitly on current area, school and pupil characteristics, rather than on historical spending.

In 2015-16 some local authorities were provided with some additional ‘fairer schools funding’. For West Sussex, this totalled just under £1 million. This fairer schools funding was rolled forward for 2016-17.

On 7 March 2016, then- Education Secretary Nicky Morgan announced the first of two consultations on the introduction of a new national funding formula. The precise nature of the formula will be the subject of a further consultation expected later in 2016. It is difficult to say how particular areas will be affected until the second phase consultation is released.

The new national funding formula is now scheduled for phased introduction from 2018, one year later than originally intended. Some areas that consider themselves ‘low funded’ – including West Sussex – have raised concerns about this delay, arguing that their schools will struggle to meet costs in the meantime.

School funding in West Sussex

The base per-pupil funding in West Sussex local authority’s ‘schools block’ in 2016-17 was £4,198. This is the third lowest per-pupil schools block amount of all local authorities in England.

The average per-pupil amount of funding in the schools block, for England in 2016-17 was £4,636, but many London local authorities have funding higher than this. For Tower Hamlets, for example, the figure was £6,982.

These figures relate to the schools block of the local authority’s Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) allocation only. There are other blocks in the DSG, and other sources of school funding (e.g., the Pupil Premium) which are not included in this.

A campaign group, WorthLess?, has been set up to raise awareness of what they say is sustained underfunding of education in West Sussex. A petition on the issue on the website has to date attracted around 15,000 signatures. In its response, the Government said it recognised that West Sussex was a relatively low-funded local authority. It remained committed to the introduction of a national funding formula from 2018-19 and would consult further on this in the autumn of 2016.[1]

Head teachers in West Sussex wrote to parents in early October 2016 to say they were considering a range of measures to mitigate funding shortfalls, including moving to a shortened four-day week.[2]

On 18 October 2016 a group of head teachers delivered a petition to Prime Minister Theresa May on the issue. Press reports said the letter included a request for £20 million in transitional funding.[3]

[1]     Petition 167761, Government response.

[2]     See ‘Heads warn budget cuts could mean schools going down to a four-day week’ in TES, 2 October 2016.

[3]     See: ‘’We’re not worth less’, schools tell Prime Minister’, in the West Sussex County Times, 23 October 2016.

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