Cash boost for rural schools is confirmed

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AN extra £350 million is to be handed to the country’s worst funded schools but the Government is still not ready to create a new national fairer formula.

Schools Minister David Laws told MPs that the extra cash would be available from next year to schools in more than a third of the education authority areas across the country.

The Liberal Democrat MP also insisted that no school or authority would lose money.

It follows assurances from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg who told the Yorkshire Post he would not allow the changes to move funding away from urban areas in the north of England.

In Parliament yesterday Mr Laws said moving all local authorities toward a single-funding formula would not take place until greater certainty could be given over long-term public spending plans.

Mr Laws said: “In the spending review last summer, the Government announced that it would consult on how to allocate schools funding in a fairer way - and we will now do this

“Today I can confirm in 2015/16 we will take the first huge step to delivering this fairer national funding, and this will be the first time in a decade that funding has been allocated to local areas on the basis of the actual characteristics of their pupils and schools, rather than simply on the basis on historic levels of spending.”

Under today’s plans, which have been published for consultation, for 2015/16, to allocate extra funding fairly, every local authority will attract a minimum funding level per pupil and school.

Minimum funding levels will be set for the basic amount of cash allocated for each pupil, for poor pupils, for those with English as an additional language, for those with low levels of attainment and for those who have been in care.

There would also be a minimum level of funding that all schools would attract to help with fixed costs such as hiring a head teacher as well as money for rural schools and higher funding for certain areas where teacher’s pay is higher.

The plans have been welcomed by f40 campaigners representing the worst funded authorities in the country which include North Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and Wakefield.

In total schools in around 60 local authorities, mainly in rural areas, will receive more cash,

Ivan Ould the f40 group’s chairman said: “This marks a huge step forward for our campaign for fair funding. The fact is that pupils and schools in f40 local authority areas have been dis-advantaged by an archaic system for nearly twenty years: they have been the poor relations in terms of the share of education funding.”

Anne McIntosh, the Conservative MP for Thirsk, Malton and Filey, welcomed North Yorkshire schools receiving an extra £97 per pupil. She said: “The additional money will greatly assist the funding of schools in rural and sparsely populated areas.”

Labour’s Hull North MP and former education minister Diana Johnson hit out over schools in the city not getting any extra funding.

She claimed the extra money was going to some of the wealthiest parts of the country such as Surrey which is getting an extra £24.8m

However in an exchange on the social media site Twitter Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole Andrew Percy criticised her stance.

He said that schools in Hull were still being funded £442 more per pupil more than in Goole and more than areas such as Surrey.

The Association of School and College Leaders welcomed the plans but warned that a 2.3 per cent increase for schools and colleges in pensions contributions, announced by the Treasury, plus a likely one per cent increase in teachers’ salaries will cost schools and colleges around £340 million - meaning most will not be better off.

Its deputy general secretary, Malcolm Trobe said: “There is a very serious situation in some schools, mostly but not entirely in lower funded areas, as they are rapidly approaching the point where they can no longer meet student needs on the funding they receive. We therefore welcome the minimum per pupil funding guarantee to help those areas that historically have been the lowest funded. This raising up of the basic funding level in these low funded areas is a useful step towards a national fair funding formula.

“This good news is completely overshadowed by the reality that all schools and colleges will have a huge hole in their budgets caused by the pensions contribution rise. This will have a catastrophic effect and lead to larger class sizes and reduced curriculum choice. We want the Government to ensure that this increase in contributions is fully funded so that children’s education is not compromised.”