Massive disparities in school funding postcode “lottery”, revealed by DfE research

School funding for a 4-year-old pupil with SEN would range from £2,000 to £25,000 depending on where they live

There is a vast disparity in the amount of education funding that pupils with special needs receive, depending on where they live, DfE commissioned research reveals.

A study asked local authorities how much money they would allocate to support a hypothetical pupil, and the answer varied dramatically from a minimum of £2,000 to a maximum of £25,000.

Sue Baldwin, director of the academies and maintained schools group at the Education Funding Agency, highlighted the research this morning, stating that such local disparites showed that “the case is made for change” to the school funding system and a new national funding formula.

“You get situations where pupils with identical needs are being awarded very different top-up funding,” she said. The report by the Isos Partnership tested this concern in a series of hypothetical cases.

“Let’s take one case [of] Peter, a four year old child with autism, severe learning difficulties and challenging behaviour,” Ms Baldwin said.

“Twelve local authorities were talked to about this child and what they would do. Every single one of them would put this child Peter into a special school but the range of top up funding that that child would attract for the school was between £2,000 and £25,000.

“This is the magnitude of the variation that we’re facing and clearly such a lottery in that sense has to be tackled.”

She said that because the current school funding system was based largely on historic factors, some schools had seen major demographic changes that resulted in little change to their budgets.

“There are some local authorities where the free school meal rate has halved and some where it has doubled yet the funding isn’t moved to [reflect] that,” she said.

Ms Baldwin said a consultation on the new school funding formula would be published within a “short time frame”. But TES understands it is unlikely that full details will be revealed until after the London Mayoral elections on May 5.

See tomorrow’s issue of TES for more on the formula in our special report on school funding.

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