School funding plan 'benefits wealthier pupils most'

[Change of direction in purpose of writing this particular blog post]

I was going to write about plans for the next stage of implementing the National Funding Formula by describing some of the reaction, as covered on the bbc website:

We are at least a full year away from the direct funding system that still seems to be in favour – where central (national) government chooses the funding level for all schools and simply sends each that much per pupil (the bigger the school the bigger the income (plus pupil premium)). What is coming in next is an increase in overall funding per pupil, but still streamed through the local authorities. There are strict areas where the LAs can vary a local formula to then allocate to schools, but with very little freedom in fact.

There seems to be some concern following a report from the Education Policy Institute

that shows the next version of the NFF will benefit schools in more advantaged areas than those in more disadvantaged areas. Subsequent coverage is, slightly, suggesting that well-off pupils are getting more, but this disguises the massive gap already in place; schools in disadvantaged areas get MASSIVELY more money those in advantage.

An example – Funding per pupil at Lydgate Junior School in 2017 was £3,707, the Sheffield Primary School mean was £4,474, and the non-London Primary School mean was £4,763. To bring LJS to the LA mean we would need an extra £770 per pupil, or about £350,000 per year (equal to one sixth of our overall budget).

A comparison then, with a local school but one in a disadvantaged context, of similar size and key stage: as above LJS = £3,707 per pupil, while Marlcliffe Primary (in Middlewood) = £4,177 per pupil, and Sharrow N, I & J (in Sharrow) = £5,373.

Sharrow School gets (and likely needs) £1,666 more than our school per pupil, per year (or £800,000 in total, some 43% of our budget).

Schools that have a higher level of disadvantaged pupils get funded more.

But the national picture is not as simple or plain – the implementation of the formula is also to get rid of countrywide disparity that has a school in Manchester funded more than a school in Barnsley despite them being seemingly identical in every way. Sheffield is, historically and horribly, funded less than most major (core) cities and so its schools receive their share of less, each getting less regardless of the level of disadvantage.

I wasn’t going to focus on the process – I wanted to focus on ignorance. The bbc website had a HYS (have Your Say) on this topic, and this is where misunderstanding and misinterpretation shows through. This was one post:

75. Posted by PresidentWPM

On 8 Aug 2020 12:43

I think that the Government funds schools in affluent area more than schools in poorer areas is because performance in affluent schools is greater than in poorer schools

The less money you invest in poorer schools, the poorer their performance. The only way to solve this conundrum is to actively solve it not just throw money at it or, in this case, spend less on underperforming schools.

This is what gets me – people have opinions on topics based on completely false impressions and understandings. They will campaign and vote based on these totally false assumptions, assumptions that are diametrically opposite to the truth! I cannot say I am whelmed by the lack of basic understanding being shown by those joining the discussion.

Lydgate Junior School, a school in an affluent area (and one that does very well, thank you) gets funded far, far, far less than any in a ‘poorer’ area. It would appear we cannot reasonably expect the public to understand – this is perhaps why we should leave decisions to experts, scientists and professionals?

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