Letter: school funding - Bring an end to postcode lottery

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I am writing in response to a story that appeared on page eight of the Harrogate Advertiser on March 2, under the headline “Head teachers face mounting pressure over school budgets”.

As the minister responsible for school funding in England, I am determined to end the historical postcode lottery of the current school funding system which sees children with similar needs receive very different amounts of funding in different parts of the country.

Funding every child fairly and according to their specific needs sits at the heart of delivering the government’s pledge to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.

School funding is at its highest level on record and will be over £40bn in 2016-17. School funding is driven by pupil numbers and, where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.

But the current system for distributing school funding is unfair, opaque and outdated. It is based on inconsistent decisions that have built up over many years and on pupil information that is over a decade old.

The case for change is clear. That is why we are proposing to introduce a national funding formula that will create a system that funds schools fairly and according to the needs of their current pupils, not just their postcode.

Under the proposed formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost – including many in North Yorkshire, as the region is set to benefit from an extra £7.4m in funding. ‎

And, while some schools will see reductions as we bring the funding system up to date, we have built significant protections in to the formula, so that no school will face a reduction of more than 1.5 per cent per pupil per year or three per cent per pupil overall.

It is also important to note that every school is funded individually, and where schools are due to see increases under our formula this is not at the expense of neighbouring schools.

Rather, our formula bases each school’s funding on the individual needs of its pupils, so schools with pupils with additional needs, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, would receive significant additional funding.

We do recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, so we will continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways; for example, by helping schools improve the way they buy goods and services.

We know that it is important that we get the formulae right so that every pound has the greatest impact. Our consultation runs until March 22, 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible. ‎

Nick Gibb MP

Minister of State (Department for Education)