Parents of pupils in local primary schools have been alerted to the significant differences in the allocation of funds per pupil for education by county councils across the country. Flyers from the campaign group f40 have been distributed with schools’ weekly newsletters.
The campaign group is fighting for a better system of funding than one which allows local authorities in different parts of the country to allocate startlingly different amounts to each pupil. The group states: “The way the government funds schools is a mess. As a result schools around the country that are similar can get very different budgets and children with the same needs can receive different levels of financial help depending on where they go to school. It’s another postcode lottery.”
Somerset County Council is amongst those at the lower end of the scale nationally in terms of the basic block unit of funding provided for pupils. It allocates £4,343 per pupil whilst the best funded areas of the country allocate budgets of between £6,000 and £8,000 for each pupil. The City of London is the best funded, each pupil being allocated a sum of £8,595.
Analysis by the Association of School and College Lecturers (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.
Pupils in North Somerset, Dorset and South Gloucester receive slightly less funding than Somerset whilst those in Cornwall and Devon receive more. A small difference in individual grants can make a significant difference to the school budget when multiplied by the number of pupils on roll.
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 in March ASCL called for a national fair-funding formula which is based on what schools actually need, rather than on an outdated system of allocations.
f40, made up of low funded authorities, has drawn the attention of local parents to the issue and is now fighting for a funding formula which is “fair and transparent to more fairly divide the cake.” The campaign group would like parents to contact both school governors and candidates standing in parliamentary and local elections this week to demand their commitment to a fair funding formula.
Somerset County Council was asked to comment on the issue but has not yet done so.