Thursday, 21 April 2016

Schools Funding

One of my priorities is to try to correct some of the historic unfairness to Cornwall when it comes to various funding formulas.  In terms of education, per-pupil funding in Cornwall is £4,782 compared to a national average of £5,225. To put it another way, Cornwall Council is ranked 143rd out of 151 Local Authorities, placing our pupils amongst the most poorly funded in the country.  This has been the case for decades and I am pleased that the Government has committed to a complete overhaul of the existing funding system to try to put things right.

Under current arrangements, the Dedicated Schools Grant is based on information that is over ten years old. This means that the existing system does not take into account all that has occurred over the last ten years regarding demographic changes, thereby preventing funding from reaching those pupils that need it most. 

This outdated system is further compounded by the fact this funding does not go directly to schools, but rather to councils, who then use their own formula to distribute it locally. Different councils use different formula, and spend different amounts on factors like sparsity and attainment. This means we end up with a confused, inconsistent system where a secondary pupil with low attainment would attract over £2,200 of additional funding in Birmingham, compared with £36 in Darlington. 

Under the proposed formula, pupils will now attract the same basic level of funding regardless of where they live in the country. This basic per-pupil funding will then be augmented by additional factors such a deprivation ensuring that those pupils who require the most help will receive the support they deserve. 

Most importantly, by 2020, this funding will bypass councils entirely, and go directly from Government to schools, removing the need for councils to set local formula. This will provide head teachers with certainty about their budgets, and do away with the post code lottery which defines our current system.  There is further to go, but the commitment to overhaul the funding system offers Cornwall's schools an opportunity for the future.