Education & Family

New schools funding scheme to be delayed by a year

Hand up in classroom
Image caption The government says it wants to make school funding fairer

The implementation of a new national funding formula for schools will be delayed by a year, Education Secretary Justine Greening has told MPs.

The government had been planning to bring in the new funding scheme in England from 2017-18 - but it will now apply from 2018-19, she said.

"We must get our approach right," Ms Greening told the Commons.

Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner criticised the delay as "woeful".

And Neil Carmichael, chairman of Parliament's education select committee, who raised the issue in an urgent Commons question, asked why more delay was necessary.

"When does she really expect this programme to be fulfilled?" he asked.

He pointed out that the plan had already gone out to consultation earlier this year.

'Historic change'

The government says the new formula is needed to tackle uneven levels of funding across England, with the best funded areas getting more than £6,300 per pupil per year, while the worst-funded averaging just £4,200 - but there are concerns that while some schools will benefit, a new formula could mean some schools in areas of need facing budget cuts.

Ms Greening told MPs she did not want to rush into changes without being sure of their ramifications.

In a written parliamentary statement, she said the first stage consultations on the new national funding formulae for schools and high needs, published in March, "have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from head teachers, teachers, governors and parents".

"There is also a strong sense in the response to the first stage of the consultation that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for an historic change and that we must get our approach right."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Justine Greening said final decisions on the new formula would be made in the new year

She said she would publish a full response to the first stage of the schools and high needs consultations and set out proposals for the second stage in the autumn.

"We will run a full consultation, and make final decisions early in the new year," she said.

"Given the importance of consulting widely and fully with the sector and getting implementation right, the new system will apply from 2018/19."

'Overstretched'

Ms Greening said the new timescale would allow local authorities to plan ahead.

In 2017-18 no local authority would see a reduction from their 2016-17 funding, adjusted to reflect authorities' most recent spending patterns, she said.

Ms Rayner called the plans "woeful and last minute" and said only this government would impose real terms cuts on schools across the country and call them fair.

Ms Greening said no school would lose funding.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh urged the government to protect the school budget in real terms, adding that he was concerned that the announcement did not rule more out cuts to school budgets "which are already overstretched".

"It is not acceptable for the government to balance the books on the backs of school pupils but the new formula threatens to do just that."

The Association of School and College leaders said it accepted the reasons for the delay but was "extremely disappointed that no interim support had been put in place for the lowest funded schools" for which the ongoing delay was "potentially catastrophic".

National Union of Teachers general secretary Kevin Courtney said the announcement provided no new money and ignored genuine funding problems.

Earlier, the NUT and ASCL were among five unions to issue a joint statement calling for urgent increases in school budgets.

Instead, budgets were being cut in real terms as the government had frozen per pupil funding and loaded on extra costs such as higher pension contributions, the statement added.

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