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£1.3m extra for schools is not enough

New funding formula is "step in right direction", says West Berkshire Councillor

Chris Ord


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AN extra £1.3m worth of funding for West Berkshire schools will not be enough to tackle budget pressures, education chiefs have said.

The figure was revealed at a meeting of the Schools Forum as the district’s educators gathered to discuss the local impact of the Government’s new National Funding Formula (NFF).

West Berkshire Council’s schools finance manager Claire White confirmed that the NFF will provide the council with an additional £1.3m, taking the total budget to allocate to schools to around £97m, although the final figure will be determined in December.

The NFF, announced by education secretary Justine Greening in September, aims to make the allocation of funding for schools across the country fairer and more transparent.

The change to the funding was the second attempt by the Tory government to tackle the allocation disparities after initial proposals would have resulted in a reduction in funding for many schools.

However, speaking at the Schools Forum meeting, Ms White said that, despite the increase, the new NFF would not solve the significant budget pressures felt by schools across the district.

“Overall, based on these figures, West Berkshire gains by £1.3m,” she said. “The other good news is, when the initial consultation took place in the spring half of our schools were going to lose funding.

“It’s a vast improvement on the initial consultation, but obviously it doesn’t resolve a lot of schools funding issues and budget problems.”

The NFF looks to provide greater funding for schools, which have historically been financially neglected, such as those in deprived urban areas.

The new funding will, for the next two years at least, be allocated as a lump sum to the local authority, which will then allocate it out to individual schools.

Primary schools in West Berkshire are set to gain on average between £10,634 and £11,495, while secondary schools will see a gain of £25,025 to £34,828 in 2018/19.

West Berkshire’s executive member for education, Lynne Doherty, said the council welcomed the additional funding, but said the NFF was merely a “step in the right direction”.

 “Schools need to meet a range of annual cost increases such as NI, superannuation, apprenticeship levy, salary increments and one-per-cent or two-per-cent salary increases, therefore the full impact on individual schools is not known yet,” she explained.

“The change to the National Funding Formula is a step in the right direction, but ultimately we want to see equality of funding per pupil across the country, a fairer system where all pupils are funded equally regardless of location.”

In September Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said Ms Greening’s announcement did “nothing to reverse” other cuts already faced by schools and added that the funding formula would mean a “real-term cut in school budgets” because of inflation pressures.

And Newbury and West Berks Labour Party secretary, Alan Rivers, agreed.

Referring to a letter sent to West Berkshire parents by the Primary Heads Association warning of a “funding crisis” earlier this year, Mr Rivers said: “School heads in the Newbury area recently told parents that the budget cuts meant they could no longer teach children properly.

“It was only pressure from parents, teachers and the Labour Party, together with a rejection of Conservative policies at the election, that forced the Education Secretary to abandon her ruinous funding formula that would have cost schools in the area many thousands of pounds and cut the number of teachers almost everywhere over the next few years.

“Now the government is using local Tory councillors as human shields to disguise its responsibility for damaging every child’s education.

“Inflation has already created real cuts in heads’ budgets and threatens school activities, and the number of teachers.”

He added: “The local Tory councillors should admit that they are making real cuts as inflation rises, and fight to protect schools and pupils in the area, instead of protecting a failed and flailing government at the expense of local children.”  

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