New National Schools Funding Formula revealed

After months of delay, the Department for Education has launched the revised National Funding Formula (NFF) for schools in England. Speaking in the House of Commons, Justine Greening said the formula would “replace the outdated funding system” which has seen children have “very different amounts invested in their education purely because of where they were growing up”. The Education Secretary also took the opportunity to highlight the £1.3 billion of ‘new’ money for schools – in reality cash diverted from capital spending – that she announced in July.

Notionally, the NFF will see every primary school in England receive £3,500 per pupil by 2019/20 building on a previous commitment that all secondary schools will see an additional £4,800 per pupil by 2018/19. However, whilst the overall amount of money made available to local authorities will make this possible, it will be up to councils themselves to decide on final allocations. Overall, there will be a minimum cash increase for every school of one per cent per pupil by 2019/20, with the most underfunded schools seeing rises of three per cent per pupil in 2018/19 and 2019/20. Additionally, there will also be a £110,000 lump sum for every school to help with fixed costs, and an additional £26 million distributed to rural and isolated schools.

As expected, the sector has reacted positively to the NFF revisions in theory, whilst highlighting that it does little to help alleviate wider funding shortfalls. Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of the ASCL, said the fundamental problem is that there is not enough funding going into education, and noted that schools need an additional £2 billion a year by 2020 to beat inflation. Similarly, Joint NEU General Secretary Kevin Courtney said: “Schools in historically underfunded areas may receive some extra money, but it will not be enough to protect them against inflation and other cost increases – and it is being taken away from other schools which will now lose even more.” Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said the announcement did “nothing to reverse” cuts schools were already facing.

The NFF is not as ambitious as originally intended, not least because – at least in the short term – it will no longer see local authorities lose their role in allocating money. It has also required expensive concessions from the Government: originally, almost half of schools were expected to lose money as part of an effort to balance cash allocations. That this is being carried through despite the Government’s forced abandonment of much of its education agenda shows both the determination to push the changes through within the Department for Education, and the importance of the NFF to many Conservative backbenchers who have schools in their constituencies that stand to benefit.

Justine Greening will be brought before MPs on the new Education Select Committee once party conferences come to an end next month.  We understand that during the first session, she will answer questions about the DfE’s approach to school funding and social justice including what the government is doing to improve the educational outcomes for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Full membership for the new Committee, chaired by Robert Halfon, was confirmed last week and includes several MPs elected to Parliament in June including Emma Hardy (Labour, Kingston Upon Hull West and Hessle) and Thelma Walker (Labour, Colne Valley). Other notable additions to the Committee are Lucy Powell, former Shadow Secretary of State and MP for Manchester Central and MP for Hazel Grove and former Teach First graduate William Wragg. The full list can of names can be viewed here.