If its data analysts – some of the best in Britain – are not satisfied that sufficient resources are going to those areas with the greatest needs, then it is the funding formula which is awry.
And, while its findings come as no surprise to The Yorkshire Post and all those who are concerned about the direction of education policy, they raise fundamental questions about the Government’s approach to ‘levelling up’.
Central to this is the definition of ‘fairness’ and the simplistic view of those naive Ministers who believe that it equates to every pupil, whatever their circumstances, having the same amount of funding.
It does not, however, recognise those areas sthat were still stymied by decades of under-investment before Covid struck.
And this is the key lesson as concerns grow about the sincerity of pledges to supposedly to tackle regional inequalities amid fears that Northern Powerhouse Rail, a scheme integral to the wider agenda of aspiration, is to be significantly scaled back.
There are solutions at hand – Sir Kevan Collins, the former schools catch-up tsar, advocates simplifying the Pupil Premium so more money reaches those pupils that are finding it difficult meet national benchmarks, while the likes of Tony Blair, Andrew Adonis and Justine Greening favour many more Opportunity Areas where support can be more bespoke.
But they do depend on education policy driving ‘levelling up’ – it does not at present – and Boris Johnson honouring the pledge that he made on taking office two years ago “to level up per pupil funding in primary and secondary schools, and that is the work that begins immediately behind that black door”. As the NAO intimates, there’s much more still to do.
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