Today’s news review looks at coverage of misleading claims about school funding and stories about the Higher Education and Research Bill.
Today (Tuesday, 3 January), the Sun and the TES have reported on misleading claims from the NUT and ATL about school funding.
The unions claim that 87% of schools will have their funding cut ‘in real terms’.
These claims are misleading and based on poor evidence, and to suggest we are taking money out of the system is simply incorrect. In order to reach their conclusions, it appears the unions have used a different definition of ‘real terms funding’ than is commonly accepted. If you take ‘real terms’ to mean ‘in line with inflation’, as is usually the case, then the figure is completely different.
The NUT and ATL also ignore the fact that pupil numbers – nationally and in many schools – are rising rapidly. Because per pupil funding is protected at current rates, this means more money in our schools. Overall – taking per pupil funding and rising pupil numbers together – the school budget will be maintained in real terms in this parliament.
School funding has never been higher and the new funding formula – which is out for consultation at the moment – will end the historic unfairness in the system that has led to some areas getting significantly less money than areas of a very similar demographic. Contrary to the unions’ claims, one thing the new funding formula categorically will not do is take money out of the system.
A DfE spokesperson said:
These figures are fundamentally misleading. School funding is at its highest level on record and will be over £40bn in 2016-17. To suggest that we are taking money out of the system is simply incorrect; we are protecting per pupil funding so where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will increase.
We have also set out proposals to end the historic postcode lottery in school funding. The proposed formula would mean, taking into account the pupil premium, that funding for pupils with additional needs would account for over a fifth of the core schools budget.
We have also announced a further investment of £190m to provide more support to underperforming schools and ensure the number of good school places continues to rise. There are now almost 1.8m more children being taught in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.
Higher Education and Research Bill
On Sunday, 1 January, the Observer published a story detailing criticisms of the Higher Education and Research Bill.
Key among the criticisms is Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University, airing concerns that the proposed Office for Students could remove universities’ royal charters. This is not the case.
A DfE spokesperson said:
We want more young people to have the opportunity to access a high-quality university education, and the measures proposed in the Higher Education and Research Bill are critical to making this possible.
The Bill does not take away the Royal Charters of any of our Higher Education institutions. What it does do is protect and enshrine the autonomy and academic freedom of these institutions in law. And it puts students at the heart of the system, with the Office for Students making universities rightly more accountable to their students so they get the best value for money, alongside the new Teaching Excellence Framework to help raise the quality of teaching and improve graduate outcomes.
Since its introduction in May, we have been listening carefully to the views of students, universities, academics and parliamentarians and have tabled amendments to the Bill based on their feedback.
Give your views on our National Funding Formula here.