Heads fear ‘drastic’ effect of losing safety net under new funding formula

Schools in the areas hardest hit by a new funding formula are likely to lose the safety net offered by a national budget protection scheme, it has emerged.

A consultation published this week reveals that the Department for Education is considering letting local authorities in areas where schools will lose money under the new formula introduce a “local minimum funding guarantee”.

This would “allow greater losses [for schools]” than permitted by the government’s nationally set minimum level, it says. Heads have reacted with dismay to the news.

Simon Elliott, headteacher of Forest Gate Community School, a secondary in Newham, east London – which is expected to be one of the hardest hit areas – said: “It would be very difficult to manage the losses if the minimum funding guarantee did [fall].”

Mr Elliott said cuts of more than 2 per cent would have a “drastic” effect on his school.

The current national minimum funding guarantee means that schools will not see annual cuts of more than 1.5 per cent per pupil. It is not yet clear what the figure will be once the formula is introduced. But for some areas, that could now be irrelevant.

The DfE document says that lower local funding guarantees could be necessary in 2017-18 as some local authorities would have “very little room for manoeuvre” if they had to meet a nationally set level.

The changes would have to be agreed by local schools forums, and the department would limit the amount by which councils could cut the minimum funding guarantee, the report says.

See this week’s TES for tips on how to balance your budget and for a headteacher’s account of how their school is losing the battle with funding cuts

This is an edited version of an article in the 11 March edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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