All schools ‘to face funding gap by 2020’

Rikama Education 17th March 2017

Every school in England will see budget cuts before 2020, even after new funding plans are put into place, research suggests.

The Education Policy Institute analysis looks at the impact of the new national funding formula against the backdrop of financial pressures in schools.

It finds even schools benefiting from the funding shake-up will see their gains wiped out by budget pressures.

The government insists schools funding is at a record £40bn level.

‘Shocking cut could cost us a teacher’

But the EPI estimates that average losses will reach £74,000 for primary schools and £291,000 for secondary schools by 2019-20.

This is because schools are bearing the brunt of unfunded rises in pay, pension and National Insurance contributions, which will account for between 6% and 11% of their budgets by 2019-20.

EPI chairman David Laws said a new funding formula was long overdue.

But he added: “As our analysis shows, however, the government may receive little credit from schools for these reforms – as even the schools benefiting from the new formula have their gains completely wiped out by other funding pressures.”

The report says: “There are unlikely to be any schools in England which will avoid a real terms cut in per pupil funding by 2019-20, even in areas benefiting from the new formula.”

The Conservatives promised, in their 2015 manifesto, a real-terms increase in the schools budget during this Parliament.

The manifesto also said: “Under a future Conservative government, the amount of money following your child into school will be protected.

“As the number of pupils increases, so will the amount of money in our schools.”

However, there is no requirement for the funding formula to be debated in the Houses of Parliament – the Secretary of State has the power to push the funding formula through.

Despite widespread concern over funding pressures, there was no extra money earmarked for school revenue budgets in the Budget last week.

Days later Education Secretary Justine Greening was heckled by head teachers at a conference in Birmingham.

Pupils’ needs

The Department for Education maintains the EPI report underlines that the government was right to introduce school funding reforms and said it was consulting on the factors that will make up the formula.

According to a DfE spokeswoman, funding is set to rise over the next two years to £42bn as pupil numbers increase.

She added: “Schools will be funded according to their pupils’ needs, rather than by their postcode, with more than half set to receive a cash boost.

“Of course we recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways.”

She said a recent report from the National Audit Office recognised that schools should be able to make savings without affecting educational outcomes.

In its assessment of the new formula itself, which was brought in to address historical inequalities between areas in schools funding, the EPI said the plans were unlikely to satisfy many lower funded areas.

The EPI also finds that pupils that live in the least deprived areas will experience the highest relative gains.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the government deserved credit for committing to a new funding formula because the current system was unfair and needed to be reformed.

‘Go back to the chancellor’

“But the overall pot of money is too small and is not sufficient to meet rising costs,” he said.

“This means a net loss for even those schools which appear to ‘gain’ under the formula.

“As a result, the proposed level of basic funding per pupil in the formula is too low to allow schools to operate.

“Additional funding allocated for deprivation, low prior attainment and other additional factors, will be needed just to lessen the impact of cutbacks, rather than provide extra support, while schools which receive little additional funding will be in dire straits.”

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: “Despite the government’s claims to the contrary, the EPI’s report has provided independent evidence to support what the ATL has been saying for months – that schools are facing significant real-terms cuts in per-pupil funding and will need to find £3bn in savings annually by 2020.”

Education ministers needed to go back to the chancellor and secure more funding for schools, she added.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said head teachers were being forced to choose between cutting subjects or cutting the school week.

She added: “Less than two years ago the Tories promised millions of parents that they would protect the money that is spent per pupil on their children’s education. This report shows that it is yet another manifesto promise they are breaking.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh said these proposals made schools scramble for the same pot of money.

“Schools in my own area have already written to me warning that they will have to cut staff numbers in order to avoid untenable budget deficits.”

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Cash boost for pupils with special needs and disability

Rikama Education 6th March 2017

Schools in England are to receive a cash boost to help improve facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

The £215m capital funding has to be spent on increasing school capacity and boosting access for these pupils to good schools.

It may be spent on specialised classrooms and facilities, but not on general day-to-day school budgets.

The news comes as many schools complain of general funding shortfalls.

Minister for vulnerable children and families, Edward Timpson, said the government wanted to ensure all children have equal opportunities regardless of their background and any‎ challenges they may face.

“We’ve already made the biggest changes for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in a generation, but we want to go further and build on that success.

“Our multi-million pound investment will enable local councils to build new classrooms and improve facilities for pupils‎, ensuring that no child is left behind,” he added.

‘Drop in the ocean’

Councils will be expected to consult local parents, carers, schools, and others on how their funding should be used and publish a short plan showing how they will spend the money.

Every local authority, except Isles of Scilly and City of London, will get at least £500,000 to be spent over three years from 2018.

Malcolm Trobe, Interim General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said heads would be very pleased with any government spending on education, particularly when it is aimed at helping young people with the greatest needs.

But he added: “Unfortunately, however, this is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed.

“Schools will have to make £3bn of savings to their annual running costs by 2020, which will have a huge impact on the curriculum they are able to offer and the support they are able to give young people, because they will have far less staff.

“In addition, the National Audit Office recently reported that it would cost an estimated £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition.”

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Top state schools ‘dominated by richest families’

Rikama Education 1st March 2017

On the day that families in England and Wales are allocated secondary school places, research shows that the richest children dominate top state schools.

Analysis of data shows 43% of pupils at England’s outstanding secondaries are from the wealthiest 20% of families.

The study from education charity Teach First also shows poorer pupils are half as likely as the richest to be heading to an outstanding secondary school.

Ministers said plans for new grammars would create more good school places.

Under the admissions code, state schools in England must follow strict rules to ensure fair access to school places.

Teach First, which fast-tracks high-flying graduates into schools in deprived areas, also commissioned a survey of 2,000 adults on their views on gaining access to good and outstanding schools.

Children’s futures

It showed nine out of 10 parents felt it was very important that their child went to a highly rated school.

Teach First said there was very little variation between parents from different social groups.

About 93% said attending their first choice school was key to their child’s future, and nearly three-quarters said they would appeal if they did not get their first choice school.

The Teach First research coincides with a separate study by the social mobility charity Sutton Trust, which suggests poorer children in England are much less likely to gain places at the 500 comprehensives that achieve the best GCSE grades.

Analysis of figures from the National Pupil Database for the charity found over 85% of schools in the top 500 took a smaller proportion of disadvantaged pupils than lived in their immediate areas.

In the average state school, 17% of secondary pupils were eligible for free school meals, compared with 9% in the top 500, the researchers found.

About half this difference is due to these schools having catchment areas with fewer disadvantaged pupils, but the rest is due to social selection.

Faith schools

The study also found a house price premium of about 20% near top comprehensives

A typical house in one of these catchment areas costs about £45,700 more than the average property in the same local authority.

This means pupils whose families can afford to buy in these areas are more likely to get places at the top secondary schools, pricing poorer pupils out, says the charity.

Faith schools, which make up a third of the top 500 schools, and admit pupils on religious grounds from outside their immediate neighbourhood, were particularly socially selective.

Faith schools in the top 500 took 6% fewer pupils on free school meals than lived in the area nearest the school – compared with 2% fewer in non-faith schools, the researchers found.

Last year, 62,301 appeals were lodged for primary and secondary schools (3% of total admissions) of which 22% were successful.

Both sets of research come as parents across England receive details of which secondary schools their children have been offered.

Last year, 84% of applicants for a secondary school place were offered their first preference school.

And about 95% received an offer from one of their top three preference schools.

A Department for Education spokeswoman called selection by house price “simply unfair”, adding that the government had already set in motion plans to tackle it.

“We plan to create more good school places in more parts of the country by scrapping the ban on new grammar schools, as well as harnessing the expertise and resources of our universities, and our independent and faith schools,” said the spokeswoman.

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Teacher shortage getting worse, say MPs

Rikama Education 21st February 2017

The government is failing to take adequate measures to tackle “significant teacher shortages” in England, a committee of MPs has said.

The Education Select Committee has called for a long-term plan, as schools struggle to recruit enough teachers and pupil numbers continue to rise.

MPs want more active efforts to reduce the numbers quitting teaching.

The Department for Education said there were currently record levels of teachers.

A spokesman said: “We recognise there are challenges.”

But, he said, the department had spent £1.3bn on a recruitment campaign.

The report from the cross-party committee, though, says recruitment targets for teaching had been consistently missed and the teacher shortage is getting worse.

It warns that this causes particular problems in some shortage subjects in secondary school, including physics, maths and computing.

Initiative overload

But the MPs say that there is no clear long-term plan to address this – and they suggest there should be greater efforts to keep teachers from leaving the profession and moving to other jobs.

Figures last year showed that almost a third of new teachers who had started jobs in English state schools in 2010 had left within five years.

The MPs want measures to tackle problems that make people leave teaching – such as an “unmanageable workload” or a lack of professional development.

“The government needs to do more to encourage teachers to stay in the profession by raising the status of teachers, improving the opportunities for good quality training, and by doing all it can to help reduce teacher workload,” said Neil Carmichael, who chairs the committee.

He said the government could consider “holding fire” on policy changes that added to the pressure on schools.

And he suggested schools needed time to support staff development without constantly being “distracted by the demands of the latest Whitehall directive”.

Malcolm Trobe, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union said: “The crisis in teacher supply has a direct impact on the education that schools are able to provide to their pupils.

“It means that important subjects like maths and science have to be covered by teachers who are not specialists in these subjects and that schools have to increasingly rely on supply staff.”

Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching said: “As well as bringing new talent into our profession, we must stretch every sinew to hang on to that talent and develop it further.”

Ministers have argued that they have kept teaching as an attractive profession in a competitive jobs market.

There have been a series of high-profile advertising campaigns for teaching and there are financial incentives focused on attracting recruits into shortage subjects.

Labour’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said the government was “failing to deliver on its most basic of tasks”.

“Recruitment targets are being missed, school budgets are being cut for the first time in decades and we have thousands more unqualified teachers teaching in our schools.”

Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh said the lack of pay rises for teachers had added to a sense that they were “undervalued”.

“It’s high time the cap on public sector wages was lifted so teachers were given the pay rise they deserve,” he said.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “There are more teachers in England’s schools than ever before, with secondary postgraduate recruitment at its highest since 2011.

“We are investing more than £1.3bn in recruitment over this Parliament and have recruited more trainees in key subjects like physics and maths than last year.”

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Call to end ban on council-run schools sponsoring academies

Rikama Education 10th February 2017

A ban on top council-run schools sponsoring failing schools amounts to “red tape” and should be dropped, say council bosses.

In England, only schools with academy status are allowed to form trusts to sponsor weaker schools.

And, the Local Government Association said, a shortage of “good quality” sponsors often left failing schools “in the dark about their future”.

Ministers said there was no legal frame for council schools to be sponsors.

The Local Government Association says 91% of council maintained schools are rated good or outstanding by education watchdog Ofsted – so they should be allowed “to play a direct role in raising education standards and improving life chances, including taking on the running of failing academies”.

New analysis of Ofsted ratings for the LGA by education analysts Angel Solutions found a higher percentage of good and outstanding grades among council maintained schools than among academies.

Of 14,890 council maintained schools inspected, 91% are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared with 85% of 5,058 academies, say the researchers.

There are wide variations within the academy category, with sponsored academies, which are forced into academy status after poor Ofsted ratings, predictably faring worse than converter academies, which must be rated good or outstanding before being allowed to convert.

The LGA points out that the majority of academies are converter academies.

Inspection ratings for 4,103 converter academies showed 89% rated good or outstanding but among the 955 sponsored academies inspected the figure was only 65%, according to the analysis.

Richard Watts, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said the figures proved councils had “the track record, experience and expertise to help lift schools out of academic failure”.

“The government must commit to removing the unnecessary red tape and give high performing maintained schools the option of becoming academy sponsors.

“Councils want to be regarded as improvement partners, not obstructionists to school improvement,” said Mr Watts, who is also the leader of Islington Council.

“With a shortage of academy sponsors and struggling schools currently in the dark about their future the simplest remedy is to give councils the power to turn these schools around where this is the best option locally.”

Mr Watts also voiced concerns about the local knowledge and capacity of the eight Regional Schools Commissioners, whose job is to oversee academic standards.

He said that without the help of councils “the early warning signs of failing” risked being overlooked.

“It is not acceptable that we have to wait for poor exam results, whistle-blowing about financial impropriety or an Ofsted inspection to trigger intervention.

“Councils are best placed to oversee school effectiveness and take immediate action where required,” added Mr Watts.

A Department for Education spokesman said there was no legal framework for a council or council-run school to sponsor a school unless they opened a trust – and this would involve converting to academy status.

“We would encourage good or outstanding council-run schools to apply to become a sponsor so they can share their expertise,” said the spokesman.

The spokesman said councils could not run multi-academy trusts “as legally less than 20% of members and trustees are allowed to be ‘local authority influenced’ to ensure the trust remains autonomous from the local authority”.

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