The Department for Education has published proposals to allocate an additional £350m in 2015-16 to schools, which increase the per-pupil budgets for the least fairly funded local areas. The Government intends that every local area will attract a minimum level of funding for each of its pupils and schools, making the distribution of funding to local areas fairer whilst ensuring that no area receives a cut to its per-pupil budget.
Significantly, the Government has held back on its commitment to implement a National Funding Formula for schools, which is now to be decided as part of the next spending review in 2016. Ministers remain keen to introduce a National Formula, but the process now appears to be occurring over a long transitional period and its future will be decided by the next Government.
It is worth being aware that as part of these arrangements the Government propose setting a minimum funding level for five pupil characteristics:
- a per-pupil amount (‘age weighted pupil unit’);
- pupils who are from deprived backgrounds;
- pupils who have been looked after for example in foster care;
- pupils with low attainment before starting at either their primary or secondary school; and
- pupils who speak English as an additional language.
Schools Minister David Laws said the extra money will be allocated in April 2015, for the 2015-16 financial year. He insisted that no local authority or school will lose out from this proposal, but around four in 10 areas will gain. He explained the Government are able to deliver this significant boost by using money from within the protected schools budget and because of additional money from the Treasury. Laws added that this “is only the start of the transition to fairer funding and eventually a national funding formula, but it is the biggest step towards fairer schools funding in a decade”.