National Funding Formula – what does it mean for schools?

There has been much talk in the media of a new National Funding Formula for schools. The government has moved £1.3billion from one part of its education budget to the schools budget.

This is in response to massive pressure from trade unions, education staff and parents, not least here in West Sussex where UNISON has been active with parents’ group Save Our Schools.

So what does the formula mean for you, if you work in a West Sussex school or are a West Sussex parent?

The branch view is that it is a case of ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ at a national level, as well as at a county level, creating winners and losers in the process.

In the most recent edition of Branch Lines UNISON West Sussex reported on the new National Funding Formula announced on 14 September by Education Secretary, Justine Greening. Branch Secretary, Dan Sartin cautiously welcomed the extra cash, but said that further analysis would need to wait until council officers had reviewed the data. Further to this, UNISON West Sussex Schools’ Forum Rep, Keith Manville has now been able to report back to the branch after the meeting of heads and governors on 19 October.

Keith’s report highlighted the additional funding pressures affecting schools in 2018/19, which are likely to include pay inflation, increased costs of free school meals and growth in pupil numbers from September 2018. There is also an expected increase in the National Living Wage and it was felt by most in the discussion at Schools Forum that without a significant increase in funding, West Sussex schools will need to continue to look for efficiency initiatives to manage. This is bad news for our members and parents.

Keith said: “What was clear from the presentation by officers is that this settlement simply pushes money around the system, as many schools will find themselves in crisis. The local authority will be required to put out one fire after another. Primary schools come off worst, with only 15 of them benefitting in any meaningful way. Heads and Governors discussed some unpalatable choices at the meeting such as cancelling agency teachers.”

The ‘Worth Less?’ campaign has also written to parents with its view that the £1.3billion is:

  • not enough to make a real difference
  • does not make up for the £3billion cuts already announced and planned for 2015-20
  • still means a real-terms cut in school budgets of 4.6% in 2015-20 (Institute for Fiscal Studies figures)
  • insufficient to allow the lowest-funded West Sussex schools to educate children to the level they deserve

Branch Secretary Dan Sartin said: “This continuing crisis must not result in UNISON members being asked to inappropriately cover for chronic shortages or stressed out teachers on sick leave. Keith’s report from Schools’ Forum really chimes with what we’ve heard nationally about the new funding formula. We know the £1.3 billion promise of extra funds is simply recycled from other parts of the department budget, and that the settlement does nothing to reverse the substantial funding cuts that schools have suffered since 2010. It looks like another tough year for our members working in schools.”

Dan continued: “It is absolutely vital that any support staff who are not currently members of UNISON join up now so that we can defend them from some of the poor practice we have seen as school leaders get increasingly desperate to make savings. We will not accept our members being disproportionately targeted by schools looking to save cash.”

UNISON West Sussex has relaunched its schools’ funding crisis survey, in partnership with Save our Schools West Sussex, to assess the impact of poor funding in school restructures. Last year we campaigned for better funding on BBC News and in the local press based on the results of our survey. This year we want to compare those results with the picture today. We want to hear from our members who work in schools, parents of children in West Sussex Schools, teachers, heads and governors.

In only takes a few minutes to complete. To take part in this year’s survey, click here.

Branch members also lobbied West Sussex MPs as part of the national schools’ funding day of action during the October half-term. See picture below taken in Parliament. It is vital we keep up the pressure now to defend education in West Sussex and ensure the Chancellor provides increased cash for schools in his November budget.