Concern from council over new school funding formula

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Major Government changes to the way schools are funded will be discussed at a meeting next week of West Sussex County Council’s Children and Young People’s Select Committee.

The changes involve using new factors and data to redistribute millions of pounds across all schools including academies in West Sussex.

A report to the committee says the changes to the Schools Block Formula for funding maintained primary and secondary schools as well as academies, are aimed at making funding ‘more transparent and easier to understand’.

Richard Burrett, chairman of the Select Committee, said: “The changes to the Schools Block redistributes almost £400 million between primary and secondary schools in West Sussex, including academies.

“This has been described as the most significant change to school funding since Local Management of schools was introduced in 1988.

“So it is right that as a scrutiny committee we look very closely at the details and implications this will have for our maintained schools, and the type of local discretion that we have to influence the funding formula.”

The Committee is meeting on Wednesday November 7, at County Hall, Chichester, from 1.30pm and is open to the public.

The changes to the funding arrangements come into effect from April 1, 2013.

A report to the committee expresses some concern about the changes.

It says: “The lack of local flexibility to reflect the diversity of circumstances affecting schools does not necessarily create a fairer system, potentially affects learning outcomes for vulnerable children, and creates risks for local authorities in relation to ensuring sufficiency of places, and the viability of small schools.”

It also says that the redistribution of funding could lead to budget reductions and redundancies in some maintained schools.

The Government has said that a threshold has been set to ensure that no school has a budget reduction of more than 1.5 per cent per pupil.

Mr Burrett (Con, Pound Hill and Worth) said: “The changes do allow for some limited local discretion in the type of formula factors that can be applied in allocating the funding to schools.

“The committee will be looking at these and making recommendations to cabinet members who will ultimately make the decisions on this.”

The meeting will also look at minor changes to the formula for Early Years funding, which allocates funds to maintained nursery schools and nursery classes as well as to providers of the free entitlement to early years education for children aged three and four.