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Make school funding fairer

Last updated: 05:15pm 9 January 2019

Across the country, children with the same needs and expectations receive markedly different rates of funding for their school place. We have begun to correct this and in the next parliament we will make funding fairer still.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.51

Our verdict

This policy exists because there has been unfairness in the way schools are allocated funds. There is general agreement on that across the political spectrum.

“Fairness” is open to different interpretations but, in the government’s own words, the unfairness is clear when, for example:

“Coventry receives £510 more per pupil than Plymouth despite having equal proportions of pupils eligible for free school meals…”

So we can see what the government means by unfairness, but arguments still arise when describing what a fairer funding system looks like.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) think a fair system would be one in which “pupils with the same characteristics are funded at a similar level, no matter which school they attend”. But even that is debatable.  The National Union of Teachers (NUT) and others have argued that a “pupil-led” funding approach doesn’t take into account the variety of costs incurred by schools (from things like inefficient buildings, for example).

A common criticism of the government’s funding approach is that it is taking place in the context of a programme of public sector cuts, or “austerity” measures.  Can you make funding fairer by effectively reducing the overall amount of money available?

So what’s happened?

The government introduced the National Funding Formula (NFF) in April 2018 to determine how much money each school receives. The transparency of the formula is a step forwards in ensuring accountability.

However, the impact and effectiveness of the new formula is yet to be determined. Some education organisations make the argument that there is simply not enough money going into the sector, which will increase unfairness.

We’ll be looking for general agreement across the education sector before we can say school funding has become fairer. Follow this policy to get the news first! For now, given the release of the new formula and the ongoing debate, we can say this policy is ‘in progress’.

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