Gap between best and worst-funded schools equivalent to 40 teachers

16 March 2015

Schools in the most poorly funded areas of England will each receive about £1.9 million less than those in the best-funded areas over the next 12 months – the equivalent of the cost of 40 teachers per school.

These huge differences in funding levels are revealed in analysis by the Association of School and College Leaders which is calling for the introduction of a national fair funding formula.

ASCL deputy general secretary Malcolm Trobe said: “School funding is a postcode lottery. In many areas, schools receive inadequate funding because of a historic grant system that does not work.

“Instead of reforming the system, successive governments have tinkered with it and failed to fully resolve the problem.

“It means that many schools must struggle with resources which are simply not sufficient for the job they are expected to do.

“It is not fair on them, and it is not fair on students and their families.

“It is no way to run an education system that everybody wants to be the best in the world.”

At its annual conference in London on Friday and Saturday (March 20 and 21), ASCL will be calling for a national fair funding formula which is based on what schools actually need, rather than on an outdated system of allocations.

Analysis by ASCL shows that schools in the 10 best-funded areas will on average receive grants of £6,297 per pupil in 2015-16, compared to an average of £4,208 per pupil in the 10 most poorly funded areas.

For a typical secondary school of 920 students, this equates to a budget of £5.8 million in the best-funded areas and £3.9 million in the most poorly funded – a difference of £1.9 million.

This is enough to pay the total costs – salaries and pension contributions – of 40 full-time teachers.

Mr Trobe said: “Funding levels rightly take into account levels of deprivation, and those in London also receive weighting for the higher costs they face. These factors account for some of the variation in funding levels.

“However, the underlying problem continues to be that funding is still impacted by historical factors going back to the 1980s when government grants were allocated to local authorities according to the amount they had traditionally spent on education.

“This means that funding inequities which existed then were enshrined in the system, and this has been a continuing problem ever since, resulting in inconsistencies across the country.”

The most poorly funded area in the country is Wokingham where schools will receive just £4,158 per pupil in 2015-16.

Suzanne Richards, headteacher of The Holt School in Wokingham, said: “We have real concerns regarding funding.

“Since 2011-12, our budget has fallen by £200,000 and we expect a cut this year of £150,000, with more to follow, yet nationally we are told education funding is not being cut.

“Other local secondary schools are similarly affected and we are all working with our local authority to establish an independent review of why this is happening.

“We are having to review all costs, contracts and staffing in all areas.

“There have sadly been some staff redundancies already and only essential staff are being replaced if anyone leaves voluntarily.

“Our primary modern foreign language outreach to primary schools has had to cease – which in turn has increased pressure on primary schools.

“We have reduced the number of sixth form and to a lesser extent GCSE-level courses, and we have increased class sizes in years 7 to 9.

“We have cancelled work experience placements this year. Repairs and maintenance and IT replacement has been put on hold.

“We are now much ‘leaner and fitter’, but we have had to reduce both curricular and enrichment opportunities available to our students and worryingly all the indications are that we will have to make further cuts.”

Second on the list of the most poorly funded areas is Poole, where schools will receive £4,194 per pupil over the next 12 months.

Andy Baker, ASCL branch secretary and headteacher of Poole Grammar School, said: “Teachers in schools in Poole feel dispirited at the continued gaps in funding. 

“Children in Poole have a range of needs which are not dissimilar to those in other authorities, yet we have significantly less funding. 

“There are pockets of deprivation in Poole, just like any borough, and we do not think that the funding formula accurately reflects the reality of need in Poole.

“It is particularly galling when schools are judged on the same terms by performance data, but disparities in resources are not factored in.

“Among the impacts are difficulties in recruiting specialist staff and retaining good colleagues.

“We are unable to provide significantly enhanced salaries for experienced staff, or indeed for the rising stars of the profession, and inevitably this acts against us in the market place. 

“It also inhibits us from providing the broader educational objectives that our students deserve - providing out of hours learning, for example.

“Schools who are being forced to cope with the cost of curriculum change will struggle to resource students properly.

“The consequence will be a greater cost to students and parents, or students lacking basic resources for learning.”