Northern schools greatly underfunded despite high levels of disadvantage, says leading think tank

A new study is urging the Government to allocate greater funding to secondary schools in the North through a new national funding formula.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North has echoed previous calls by SCHOOLS NorthEast for policy makers to take the opportunity given by the reforming of the funding formula to boost budgets, as northern secondary schools are on average funded £1,300 less per pupil compared to those in London, despite the high levels of disadvantage.

The IPPR report, commissioned by Teach First, also shows that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in the North are lagging behind compared to their peers in the rest of the country. It suggests that weak GCSE results in northern schools will have a negative impact on the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project, echoing Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments earlier this year that the Northern Powerhouse will “sputter and die” if the issue of underperforming schools is not tackled effectively.

Speaking to Schools Week, Director of SCHOOLS NorthEast Mike Parker explained the issue of geographical disparity in funding:  “The current average funding nationally equates to £4,732 per pupil – but in the City of London it is as high as £8,595. The average for the North East is £4,616.

“The current schools funding formula is broken. If North East schools were funded at the same level as London schools we would have an additional £360m per year to spend on education.”

He added that national parity would be equivalent to an extra £45.6m for the region.

“The government is adding in an area cost adjustment where they work out on a per pupil basis where the money should go and then multiply in areas of high cost,” he said.

“We recognise that it can be expensive for schools in expensive areas to recruit teacher, but to us that it a blunt approach, because it is quite difficult to recruit teachers into geographically remote area too, but we don’t get any extra funding for that.

“Money alone doesn’t equate to achievement – but it certainly helps.”

Mr Parker quoted figures from analysis of school funding in the region conducted by SCHOOLS NorthEast, available to read here. SCHOOLS NorthEast also submitted a response to the Government consultation on the new funding formula, which you can access here.

Jonathan Clifton, Associate Director at IPPR, added: “Two decades ago London was the worst place to attend school if you were from a low income background, now London’s disadvantaged pupils achieve better outcomes than those in other parts of the country.

“The successful turnaround of London’s schools shows that educational disadvantage can be tackled though investment, strong leadership and collaboration.

“We need a similar level ambition for schools in the North. Smart policy and fair funding from government could transform children’s prospects and help build the northern powerhouse.”

Further reading:

Northern secondary schools receive £1,300 less per pupil than London (The Guardian)

Call for more school funding to help northern schools (Schools Week)

Tackle pupil attainment gap in northern England, IPPR urges (BBC)

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