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DfE's action on school funding - and its post 16 inaction

19 June 2019

Today's announcement on school funding confirms that school budgets are the top spending priority for the Department for Education. The 3% increase in the school budget allows DFE to guarantee schools a minimum of £4,600 a pupil in 2018, rising to £4,800 in 2019. Unless things change (as we would like them to), core funding for 16 and 17 year olds is stuck at £4,000 so this means that the drop after GCSE increases. It is good news that DFE has found money to offer some protection to primary and secondary schools though it will not be clear until December 2017 what the details are. It is mystifying that they are failing to act on sixth form rates. Hopefully those secondary schools that have funding increases will put the money to good use and increase the GCSE pass rate, particularly in English and Maths. Around 70% of 16 year olds achieve grades 4/C and above in English and Maths which leaves 30% required to resit at sixth form level. The cost of these resits is a considerable burden on post 16 budgets. Details of the Education Secretary's announcement are: The announcement is follow up to her post election July statement in which she promised that the plans for a national formula are still on track and that she is allocating £1.3 billion from elsewhere in the DFE budget to make this happen. It is still unclear which budgets are being reduced to make this happen. The DFE publication includes the outcome of the Stage 2 consultation launched in December 2016 and detailed proposals for 2018-19. The core schools budget (aka Dedicated Schools Grant) rises from £41.0 billion in 2017-18 to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and £43.5 billion in 2019-20. The increase in 2018-19 is the £1.3 billion extra.This helps DFE minimise the number of losers from the new formula and put more money into the core rate. The minimum rates for secondary pupils will be set at £4,600 in 2018-19 and £4,800 in 2019-20. This widens the gap with the £4,000 full-time rate for 16 to 17 year olds particularly given that more money is spent on additional factors in the pre-16 formula and the pupil premium is also allocated for about 15% of the cohort. The joint AoC/SFCA/ASCL ask for £200 extra on the 16 to 18 rates looks modest by comparison. The last iteration of the national formula plan (published in autumn 2016) put a big share of money into additional factors in order to minimise the number of losers. Today’s announcement is about redressing this balance to lift funding in areas that are poorly funded in the current system. DFE will calculate the formula but precise distribution remains with councils. The last iteration of the plans proposed a ban on money being moved between the school and high needs block which might have been bad for colleges in areas where the high needs budget is under pressure. This latest announcement allows transfers of up to 0.5% DFE is planning to move ahead with the new high needs distribution formula but will use part of the extra cash (the £1.3 billion) to minimise losses. There is, rightly, growing concern about school teacher salary levels given evidence of recruitment and retention difficulties but it is worth noting that median school teacher pay (at £35,000) is more than 12% higher than median pay in colleges (£30,800). The school workforce being slightly younger than the college workforce (median age in the former is 39 compared to a median of 45 in the latter)