Small schools disadvantaged by funding formula

When the investments in education funding were announced earlier this year, there was considerable confusion about how this money would be distributed and how much of an increase schools would see. Since, it has been identified that the figures announced are cumulative, and that there are considerable geographical disparities in who will receive additional funding.

It is now emerging that specific types of schools will lose out. Earlier this week, Primary Head Teacher Thomas Moore wrote in Schools Week that the ‘Funding formula threatens small schools with extinction’.

Last month, Julie Cordiner, School Financial Success, analysed the data, highlighting that ‘smaller schools are less likely to get MFL compared to their representation among all schools, while larger schools are more likely to qualify. The effect is particularly marked among primary school.’

Additional funding has to be calculated in some way, however Moore and Cordiner have highlighted how using the National Funding Formula can be unfair for some schools.

This is because the ‘core funding’ – money that schools receive for services that all schools are required to pay for, regardless of their size, has been included in the per pupil calculations. This means that in smaller schools it is spread across fewer pupils and as a result, per pupil funding appears to be higher.

In a small school, total funding (and especially the lump sum) is spread across fewer pupils, so if you compare two schools with similar characteristics, a small school’s per pupil funding is inevitably going to be higher than in a large school.

This is of particular concern in the North East, as a region with a high proportion of ‘small schools’. Over 370 schools in the region have fewer than 200 pupils, giving the North East one of the highest proportions of small schools in the country, behind the South West and East Midlands. We must ensure that our small schools are not overlooked or left behind when it comes to funding.

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