The big funding question …. Will we be better off or will we be worse off with the government’s new proposals for a National Funding Formula? Sally Hamson (@SallyHamson)

Last week I decided to investigate our funding for last year compared to the new proposed figures, as per the National Funding Formula (NFF) consultation document. The anticipation was high!

Not only was it exciting to hear that school funding was to be modernised to make us equal across the country but historically Northamptonshire has always been a vastly underfunded county – we could only be winners surely!

Obviously these figures will be different for all schools and counties so I can only present the view from where I am sitting but my initial disappointment was to read that secondary schools will get 29% more per pupil in the proposal based on historical fact.

The issue here is not with secondary schools receiving more money than primaries (they have more specialist equipment to provide etc.) but why put in place a new NFF and not bother to explore properly what the difference is in costs per pupil in each school?  If we are going to create something new, let’s at least get the first part to the formula accurate and not just preserve the former concepts! By asking for this I may have shot ourselves in the foot (primary allocation could decrease), but at least it would be precise!

New figures suggest we would get £2712 per pupil in KS1 and KS2. Currently in Northants, we only get £2699 giving us an increase in our budget of roughly £3500.  However the new formula only takes KS1 and KS2 into consideration – what has happened to our early years? Do they have their own NFF which is being created separately?  I regard the EYFS as a part of my whole school and nothing irritates me more than detaching them all the time. EYFS teachers are included in all my staff meetings and professional development, the children are part of my school and we are held to account for their results equally as much as we are with KS1 and KS2 – please stop segregating them.

The next conundrum is the deprivation factor.  The NFF proposals state our school would now receive a range of different funds per pupil such as Ever6 FSM, Current FSM and an IDACI rating ranging from A to F. When I attempt to compare this to current expenditure – which is not easy – it looks as if we will lose in the region of £28 000.   The initial increase has been eaten away leaving us a loss of roughly £24 500.

Through the proposed NFF we will all receive a lump sum of £110 000.  Currently ours is £138,400. Another loss of £28 400 making the total loss so far of £52 900.

We would receive no extra funds for any split sites, sparsity, mobility or PFI but it does look as if our rates are going to be covered – good.

The EAL block is pretty clear – the new NFF states that we would receive £515 per primary pupil who joins us with EAL for the first 2 years. This makes good sense, but… why do secondary EAL pupils receive so much more than primary – £1385? Surely if a child cannot speak English then it doesn’t matter what age they are?

Finally, we move on into unknown lands. The NFF has created a new “Lower Prior Attainment” block for any child who has not reached the ELGs in EYFS or the 100 scaled score in Year 6. We would receive £1050 per pupil in primary (£1550 in secondary). I am assuming that this will replace the Notional SEN block that we currently receive at £80 000. It is hard to decipher as the guidance (pp25-26) is very “woolly” so I am left struggling to predict what this figure would be and keeping everything crossed that it stays about the same as this.

Despite already being an underfunded county it does actually look as if we will lose more in Northamptonshire with the new National Funding Formula. This is both depressing and incredibly worrying.  Obviously this would have a massive impact on my school as we are barely breaking even today having trimmed things down to the bare minimum.

I ask all schools to look closely at their funding arrangements and compare theirs with the new NFF then complete the consultation as soon as they possibly can.

What am I doing right now? Rather than sit here getting more and more depressed I am off to meet my glorious Dodgeball teams who have managed to win 3 trophies in 2 weeks and remind myself why I do this job. Celebrating children’s successes no matter how small or how huge is what it is all about and we can tend to forget this sometimes. I wonder if we can afford a trophy cabinet …?

 

About the author: Sally Hamson is headteacher of Wollaston Community Primary School in Northamptonshire and is a vice chair of HTRT

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