Gap between worst and best funded schools comes to more than £1.9m

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The best funded schools get £6,297 per-pupil while the worst funded get £4,208 – a shortfall that is equivalent to the cost of hiring 40 teachers. School leaders have now called for unfair funding settlements to end. Pete Henshaw reports.

The gap between the best and worst funded schools in England is the equivalent to the cost of hiring 40 teachers, analysis shows.

Ahead of its annual conference this week, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is trying to illustrate to ministers the problems created by huge funding disparities across the country.

Its figures show that over the next 12 months schools in the worst funded areas will each receive around £1.92 million less than those in the best funded areas.

Schools in the 10 best funded areas will on average receive grants of £6,297 per-pupil for 2015/16, compared to an average of £4,208 per-pupil in the 10 worst funded areas.

For a typical secondary school of 920 students this equates to a budget of £5.8 million in the best-funded areas and £3.9 million in the worst funded – a difference of £1.92 million.

This is enough to pay the total costs – salaries and pension contributions – of 40 full-time teachers, says ASCL.

Deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said: “Funding levels rightly take into account levels of deprivation, and those in London also receive weighting for the higher costs they face. These factors account for some of the variation in funding levels.

“However, the underlying problem continues to be that funding is still impacted by historical factors going back to the 1980s when government grants were allocated to local authorities according to the amount they had traditionally spent on education.

“This means that funding inequities which existed then were enshrined in the system, and this has been a continuing problem ever since, resulting in inconsistencies across the country.”

The Department for Education recently allocated another £390 million for the 2015/16 schools budget, targeted at the 69 “least fairly funded areas”.

However, ASCL wants to see more and is among those that have been campaigning for a national fair funding formula for schools.

Members attending its annual conference in London tomorrow and Saturday (March 20 and 21) will hear renewed calls for a national formula “based on what schools actually need, rather than on an outdated system of allocations”.

In 2015/16, the worst funded area in the country will be Wokingham, where schools will receive £4,158 per pupil. Suzanne Richards, headteacher of The Holt School in Wokingham, has “real concerns” over funding.

She explained: “Since 2011/12, our budget has fallen by £200,000 and we expect a cut this year of £150,000, with more to follow, yet nationally we are told education funding is not being cut.

“We are having to review all costs, contracts and staffing in all areas. There have sadly been some staff redundancies already and only essential staff are being replaced if anyone leaves voluntarily.”

The school has been forced to take a number of other measures, including: 

  • Cutting its primary school modern foreign language outreach.

  • Reducing the number of 6th form courses and to a lesser extent GCSE-level courses.

  • Increasing class sizes in years 7, 8 and 9.

  • Cancelling work experience placements this year.

  • Postponing repairs and maintenance and IT replacement.

Ms Richards continued: “We have had to reduce both curricular and enrichment opportunities available to our students and worryingly all the indications are that we will have to make further cuts.”

Just behind Wokingham is Poole, where schools will receive £4,194 per-pupil over the next 12 months.

Andy Baker, headteacher of Poole Grammar School, said teachers in the area felt “dispirited” at the continued funding problems. 

He added: “Children in Poole have a range of needs which are not dissimilar to those in other authorities, yet we have significantly less funding.

“There are pockets of deprivation in Poole, just like any borough, and we do not think that the funding formula accurately reflects the reality of need in Poole. It is particularly galling when schools are judged on the same terms by performance data, but disparities in resources are not factored in.”

Mr Baker said schools in the area face difficulties in recruiting specialist staff and “retaining good colleagues”. He added: “We are unable to provide significantly enhanced salaries for experienced staff, or indeed for the rising stars of the profession, and inevitably this acts against us in the market place. It also inhibits us from providing the broader educational objectives that our students deserve – providing out of hours learning, for example.

“Schools who are being forced to cope with the cost of curriculum change will struggle to resource students properly. The consequence will be a greater cost to students and parents, or students lacking basic resources for learning.”

Mr Trobe added: “School funding is a postcode lottery. In many areas, schools receive inadequate funding because of a historic grant system that does not work. Instead of reforming the system, successive governments have tinkered with it and failed to fully resolve the problem.

“It means that many schools must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do. It is not fair on them, and it is not fair on students and their families.

“It is no way to run an education system that everybody wants to be the best in the world.”

The worst funded areas

The 25 worst funded areas in England in 2015/16 will be:

  1. Wokingham: £4,158 per-pupil
  2. Poole: £4,194
  3. South Gloucestershire: £4,196
  4. Stockport: £4,206
  5. West Sussex: £4,206
  6. Cheshire East: £4,209
  7. York: £4,209
  8. Dorset: £4,230
  9. Trafford: £4,235
  10. Warrington: £4,236
  11. Leicestershire: £4,237
  12. Solihull: £4,237
  13. Rutland: £4,250
  14. Swindon: £4,251
  15. Bournemouth: £4,254
  16. Cambridgeshire: £4,261
  17. Hampshire: £4,277
  18. Bracknell Forest: £4,291
  19. Northamptonshire: £4,293
  20. Central Bedfordshire: £4,297
  21. East Riding: £4,301
  22. Warwickshire: £4,302
  23. Buckinghamshire: £4,305
  24. Surrey: £4,308
  25. Wiltshire: £4,310


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