Fair Funding for West Sussex Schools

UPDATE: 21st July 2017

As part of the ongoing campaign, earlier this year, I raised Fair Funding with both the Education Secretary and Mrs May, on the floor of the Commons, securing a commitment to address the issue of a minimum funding level for schools as part of the Fair Funding consultation.  

 

Fair Funding is important for our local schools.  However I should stress that "Fair Funding" does not mean equal funding.  The purpose of "Fair Funding" is not to channel more money to historically lower-funded areas but to match funding to need.  The formula is transparent and is fair to the extent that every child with identical characteristics, wherever they live in England, will receive the same funding, adjusted in part by local costs.  The largest element of funding allocation is a straight forward per pupil “base level”.  Beyond this funds are largely allocated on pupil-led factors to support pupils that face entrenched barriers to success in school.  Low prior attainment, speaking English as a second language, deprivation, all impact the ability of pupils to succeed (and can have a wider impact on a class if this isn't tackled by proper resourcing).  I have not yet met a Headteacher in Horsham or elsewhere that disagrees with this analysis or believes that it should not be reflected in the national funding structure.

 

In reality, however, given why it is distributed Horsham schools are unlikely to receive as high a level of pupil-led incremental funding as in most other areas of the country.  This is why I have been, throughout, particularly focussed on the level of basic funding and its sufficiency.

 

The original Fair Funding formula, announced subject to consultation, overall benefitted our local schools and I supported it in principle but wished to see amendments – in particular to underline total per pupil funding.

 

On 18th July the Education Secretary announced changes to the NFF in the House of Commons.  I attended and, at my request, met the Education Secretary to discuss details on 19th July before meeting with local Headteachers on 20th and 21st July.  

 

I was very pleased with many of the elements of the announcement.

 

Most importantly over the next two years £1.3bn of Education Department resources are being diverted to frontline school funding and high needs.  As a result not only will more money be spent on schools than ever before but the amount being spent per pupil (at a time of increasing school roles) will be protected.  This increase will be primarily applied to the base element, further increasing its importance in the totality school budgets.  Not only is the increase in frontline funding positive for our schools but the way it is distributed will enhance this benefit. 

 

The rate of improvement in the funding for local schools that are befitting from the formula will also be accelerated. 

Overall the Education Secretary has specified that, taking into account total funding, no Secondary School will receive less than £4,800 per pupil in two years’ time.  This for me is an important step – providing a base line level.  It is important for now but also as a marker for the future. 

 

While all local Secondaries always benefitted from the new formula many local Primaries (given the workings of the previous county-wide formula) in relative terms lost out.  The announcement made clear that the formula has been amended to ensure that no school will lose out from its introduction in cash terms – indeed they will continue to receive small funding increases.

 

I would have liked to hear more detail about Primary Schools in the announcement and have flagged this with the Secretary of State.  The Department has more work to do between now and releasing in September the full impact, school by school, of the revised formula and I expect to hear more in due course.  However the announcement of a minimum anticipated per pupil funding level for Secondaries I believe is a helpful precedent for ongoing discussions on the impact of funding changes on other schools. 

 

Locally we have new schools being planned to meet the needs of our expanding population.  I have received assurances that none of these (which have been approved in principle and are currently going through the school financing/planning stage with the Education Department) will be adversely effected by the redirection of resources to support current school resources.

 

Funding is only half of the equation for schools.  The other half, naturally, is costs.   

 

There has been an increase in school costs which has led to tightening school budgets.  The cost pressures are real albeit that few would dispute the need for the extra spending – for example in respect of teachers’ pay and pension increases. I believe that most schools locally are run very efficiently but the Department are also making available advisers to assist schools who believe they face particular budgetary pressure.

 

We will have more detail, school-by-school, come September.  Immediate reactions locally to how this may impact school funding range from a £24 per pupil improvement to over 10 times that number.  For school budgets much depends on cost factors.   No one however doubts that the changes announced by the Education Secretary are a step in the right direction. 

 

I believe, especially in the context of our fiscal situation, this announcement is indeed a significant improvement.  I will of course be going through the fine detail in September, as will others, but I welcome the announcement.

 

 

UPDATE: 22nd March 2017

The consultation on the Government’s proposed schools’ Fair Funding Formula ended on 22nd March.

 

The highest profile way any MP can raise an issue in the Commons is by raising it direct with the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s Questions.  I used PMQs on Wednesday, 15th November – the last before the closing date for the Consultation - to raise school funding. 

This is part of a long campaign which started, literally, the week I was first elected and has involved numerous interventions in Parliament and meetings with Ministers and officials:  both direct and involving local Heads. 

 

The Government is right to bring forward a fair funding formula: the effective funding going to each child should reflect that child’s needs on the same basis wherever they attend school.  I have not met a single headteacher who does not believe that schools need more money if they have a large number of pupils who don’t speak English as a first language or whose progress is held back by a poor educational starting point.  To provide equal opportunity and to ensure our country can prosper, fair funding is the right approach. 

 

Getting the best possible formula is however critical and I am most grateful to the many Heads and Governors who have spared the time to run through individual school budgets line by line.  As I put it in the Budget debate in the Commons,

 

“Education is key. I have literally studied line by line the financial projections of some of the schools in my Horsham constituency, so I can assure the Chancellor that, after years of being relatively underfunded, they run an extremely efficient and tight ship, with staffing costs often accounting for 85% of total spend. Schools in historically well-funded areas have much to learn from schools such as those in West Sussex and could potentially do more than is currently being asked of them. I am grateful for the Secretary of State for Education’s commitment to look carefully, as part of the fair funding consultation, at the minimum funding required by schools to deliver the standards and curriculum that students, and we, have every right to expect.”

 

Some local schools I have visited could, from our discussions, continue to provide in the immediate term a great education without significant concerns.  In addition in virtually every school there are opportunities to make small efficiencies – even after years of doing so there almost always are!  However I fully recognise that after a long period of effective resource management there are real worries in many schools about how taut budgets have become and the risk posed by the additional costs already absorbed last year and anticipated over the next two.

 

Co-ordinating with other West Sussex MPs I advocated in our joint submission to the Consultation a minimum guaranteed cash underpinning for every school, regardless of their pupils’ “additional needs”. This should be determined “bottom-up” as to what is needed for schools to succeed.  This in my mind is both fair and the best way to enhance our local school funding. 

 

The approach is consistent with that discussed at the meeting we arranged between the Schools’ Minister and West Sussex Heads.  It is also consistent with questions I have asked not only to the PM but also in Education Questions – I received assurances in both that the proposal would be looked into as part of the consultation review.

 

Our Consultation response  (which is attached) also makes other detailed observations regarding the proposal.  I have also published here a letter sent to my colleague the Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP by the Education Secretary.

 

In my view the Fair Funding Formula as currently proposed is better than the current system and on average improves the level of pre-cost funding for local schools but it could certainly be improved, that is our objective.

 

UPDATE: 2nd November 2016

West Sussex MPs took the campaign on Fair Funding and Transitional Support to the floor of the Commons this morning with a Westminster Hall debate.  My speech is 10 minutes in and draws extensively on the input I have had, for which I am very grateful from a number of schools in the constituency.

This afternoon we are seeing Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, to press the case further.

 

A video of the debate can be found here: http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/9b387b6d-28f4-4e0b-9d87-ffd64d3ed678

 

UPDATE: 18th October 2016

West Sussex MPs this morning met the Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb MP, to press for the rapid introduction of the National Funding Formula.  They also asked for transitional funding for West Sussex schools until the NFF comes in.7

The Minister made clear that the Education Secretary and Department are well aware  that West Sussex schools are underfunded compared to the national average. 

The Education Secretary, Justine Greening, has described the current school funding system as "arbitrary, unfair and out-of-date".  She has announced that the new system, following consultation, will be introduced starting in September 2018.  The new system will improve the funding of West Sussex schools. 

MPs pushed hard for “transitional funding” to bridge the gap between the current funding system and the new approach.  The Government has not yet taken a decision on transitional funding but the Minister heard the case and has promised to consider closely the representations made.

West Sussex MPs are also taking the case direct to the Secretary of State in a meeting to be held on 2nd November. 

Later in the day MPs joined Headteachers and pupils from schools across West Sussex who delivered a letter to No.10 Downing Street asking for Fair Funding and appealing for transitional support.

Jeremy Quin commented

“It was a pleasure to join pupils from The Weald School, along with local Heads, at Downing Street.  My fellow MPs and I put the case strongly this morning to the Schools Minister and will continue to campaign in Westminster, with a meeting with the  Education Secretary scheduled for 2nd November.”

UPDATE: 30th September 2016

Following my question in the House of Commons and a letter from West Sussex MPs we have secured meetings with the Schools Minister and The Secretary of State for Education.  We will be using it to welcome her ongoing commitment to National Fair Funding for Schools and to urge the introduction of Transitional Funding for our local schools to run up to the full implementation of the NFF

UPDATE: 25th July 2016

The new Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, reconfirmed in the House of Commons on Thursday that a New Funding Formula for Schools ("Fair Funding") would be introduced as soon as possible.

The new formula is incredibly important as, once introduced, it is likely to remain in place for decades to come. Ministers have already conducted one half of the consultation process and intend to come back to consult on the likely impact of the new funding formula on scho...ols.

Given the complexity of the task the Secretary of State has announced that rather than phasing in the formula starting from 2017 this will be introduced from 2018.

I attended the Commons statement ame welcomed the reconfirmation of the New Funding Formula. However I immediately asked the Secretary of State that urgent consideration be given to the provision of transitional funding to help tide over West Sussex schools until the new formula is introduced.

The Secretary of State immediately responded, saying that she would look into adopting a “sensible approach” to the 2017-2018 period.

Alongside fellow West Sussex MPs I have written to Justine Greening urging that such transitional funding, aimed at helping West Sussex which for many years has been the worst funded county on a per pupil basis, is introduced.

Clip: http://parliamentlive.tv/…/b4a6b3fd-eef8-4349-b2a2-b2afac08…

UPDATE:

After months of campaigning on the issue Jeremy Quin is delighted that the Government is bringing forward changes to the funding mechanism which will result in fairer funding for West Sussex Schools.

 

The current formula has remained in place for years under different governments and was desperately in need of fundamental reform.  I demanded just such a change in an open letter to the Prime Minister last month and I am delighted that at last we have achieved a cast iron commitment to change.

 

The Department of Education will consult early in 2016 on the terms of the new formula which will be implemented from April 2017.

 

It will mean that school funding will be based in future more on pupil numbers and less on archaic political considerations.  

 

There is still a lot of campaigning to do - to ensure we get the right formula for the future and that this is implemented on as swift a timescale as possible.  There will be "losers" elsewhere in the country from a fairer formula but they have to recognise that West Sussex has been losing out for years.

 

This change won't solve all the concerns about the funding of local schools but it is a critical step in getting the base funding right for the future.

Schools and teaching staff in the Horsham constituency do a great job and our students produce fantastic results. This is something of which we can be truly proud and West Sussex aspires to be, by 2018/19, the best performing local authority at GCSE. However no one should ever be complacent and good education requires investment.

 

FAIRER FUNDING FOR WEST SUSSEX SCHOOLS

 Currently West Sussex, under the schools funding formula, receives the lowest amount per pupil of any county in England.  Under the formula a typical secondary school in the Horsham Constituency is receiving some 15 per cent less than the national median.  Furthermore the lag effect of the formula, operating a year in arrears, means that areas of growing school rolls - such as Horsham - are hit twice.

The formula is not fair and needs updating.  Jeremy Quin is campaigning on this issue alongside fellow West Sussex MPs.  The Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, in response to a question in the House of Commons has acknowledged that change is required.

Jeremy is a member of a delegation of West Sussex MPs who will shortly be meeting with Nicky Morgan to press for progress on this issue. The formula will not be changed completely overnight but it is hugely important to see improvement - there are few things as important as getting a fair allocation of resources for the education of our children.

Attachments

Attachment Size
Fair funding Consultation Media Release 21.3.17.docx 18.72 KB
Joint Letter - Fair Funding Consultation (final).pdf 2.19 MB
Letter to Sir Nicholas Soames from Justine Greening 17.3.17.pdf 186.15 KB