07 Oct The national funding formula could be the death of small schools
Thomas Moore is a headteacher from a small, rural primary school in the south-east of England. In this blog post he shares his concerns regarding how changes in the proposed national funding formula will have a particular impact on small schools. This blog is reproduced here from its original post with permission.
Funding changes matter for everyone – but particularly for small schools
The following is an excerpt of an email I sent to the education secretary and my school’s MP yesterday – I am hoping it highlights the significant impact that the National Funding Formula will have on small schools.
I am writing to you to try and ascertain if you are aware of how the proposed increase in per pupil funding in schools will actually have a detrimental impact on small schools?
West Sussex has undertaken a consultation on the future of 5 small schools in West Sussex.
Andy Thorne (Strategic Finance Business Partner for West Sussex) states that because of the way funding is worked out, all but 3 small schools (<150 according to West Sussex) will not see any increase in funding, and those 3 will have negligible increases. Whilst this means schools greater than 150 will be better off, which is of course welcome – it appears as though government are actually trying to make small schools unviable. Is this the case?
There is a simple remedy to this that needs to be made by government which would ensure that all schools are financially better than they are at present. When I spoke with Nick Herbert (MP in West Sussex) almost two years ago I talked of the volatility of pupil numbers in small schools and the impact that an increase in per pupil funding had on the variability to our finances each year. Nick himself said, shouldn’t there be a chunk of money that each school gets that does not vary from year to year? He was spot on, this is exactly what there should be and historically there always has been. When I started in headship of a small school in 2017 this figure was £150K – the lump sum. This is a figure that had been worked out as being the basic cost that every school required, regardless of size, to function. Since my appointment, this figure has been reduced to £110K as a result of the new per-pupil led funding. The drop of £40k is why the Local Authority (LA) initially questioned the viability of small schools and set up its small schools strategy.
When working out each schools ‘per-pupil’ funding, this lump sum is added into the mix and then the total is divided by the number of pupils on roll. This puts a small school at a huge disadvantage.
Last year we had 50 children on roll and received a total of £284,830. Divided by 50 = £5696.60 per pupil. However if you remove the lump sum (which was £130k [as a step down before being £150k this year]) and then divide by 50 it equals £3096.60 per pupil – a staggering difference in real per pupil funding I am sure you will agree. By excluding the lump sum from the calculations for per pupil funding it would still mean larger schools would have an increase in funding; however, it would also mean you are safeguarding the future of small rural schools.
If you feel passionately about the positive role small schools play to the children, families and communities they serve, I would urge you to respond to the consultation (which closes on Oct 22nd) stating that the lump sum should not be included when working out the minimum per-pupil funding: