2 July 2008

Schools' funding

We have just entered a three year cycle of schools' funding in which only minor changes can be made to the formula used to allocate funding which should mean that the Kingston Schools Forum (KSF) has little to do. Sadly this is not the case.

Having just spent a year doing a detailed review of funding deprivation (children from deprived families do less well at school) we are now looking at this topic again just because one school that lost out from the changes has complained to the Local Authority.

The new review will take a few months but I have nailed my colours to the mast and fired this opening salvo.

I would appreciation a discussion at some point as to how this issue has arisen. Most years in the budget consultation schools ask for some elements of the formula to be reconsidered but I do not recall the Local Authority ever responding to a school's concerns in this way before. To be specific, similar requests by The Mount have been ignored. I would like to understand how the Local Authority reached it's decision this time as it would appear that it is behaving inconsistently and, therefore, unfairly.

I also have grave concerns about the issues we are being asked to consider in this line of enquiry. The statement is made that there is an increasing gap in the funding between schools and it is implied from this that this is a bad thing. But the gap in need between schools is far far wider than the gap in funding so a rational analysis is likely to conclude that the funding gap should be increased further.

I still fail to see why the Local Authority continues to use funding per pupil as a measure when the main costs are not incurred on a per pupil basis. These figures are also distorted by statement funding which is particularly an issue with special needs settings. And if we are to have a sensible look as schools' funding we need to consider all the income a school gets, including that from parents.

The comment about lowering standards, while welcome, completely misses several points. Every funding decision that we make that diverts money from one set of schools to another could have an impact on standards to say that this recent change could is meaningless. Secondly, despite the efforts of some of us, it has proved impossible within this authority to link funding and standards in a single debate. And thirdly, we already know that the current funding formula has an impact on standards as those schools with the most deprivation are also those with the lowest standards.

I am not sure that asking schools about their budget pressures will provide any objective information and I would question the purpose of this.

I am more than happy to continue the review of primary funding and in order to do so I suggest that the information we need about each school is funding, needs and standards.

Matthew

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