Today’s news review looks at our 30 hours free childcare offer for working parents, which launches later this year, and clarification around school funding and the new national funding formula (NFF).
30 hours free childcare
Today, Monday 13 February, The Guardian reported on the Government’s pledge of 30 hours free childcare.
From September 2017, this will allow 390,000 working families to benefit from 30 hours free childcare per week. This will reduce the cost of childcare and enable more parents to return to work after starting a family.
The Guardian reported on concerns that fewer than half of the families who receive the existing 15 free hours will qualify for this offer, and also questioned how this will affect low-income families or those on zero-hour contracts.
We understand that many parents have irregular working patterns and the scheme has been designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate them. Families where both parents (or the sole parent) are on a zero hours contract, and can demonstrate they earn the equivalent of 16 hours a week at the national minimum or living wage, will still be eligible.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
We are investing more in childcare than any previous government, spending a record £6 billion per year by 2020 – this includes an additional £1 billion per year on our free entitlements to support families with the cost of childcare.
The new 30 hours free childcare care offer will help working families by reducing the cost of childcare and supporting parents into work or to work more hours should they wish to do so.
As we have said before, around 390,000 working families will be eligible for 30 hours free childcare from September. Households benefiting from the universal offer where an individual’s income exceeds the £100,000 limit will not be eligible for the additional hours. Where a household does not earn above that threshold but is ineligible they may be able to claim up to 85% of their childcare costs through the childcare element of Universal Credit.
National funding formula (NFF)
There was a range of coverage over the weekend about school funding and how schools in different parts of the country could be affected by our plans for a new fairer national funding formula (NFF).
On Saturday 11 February, BBC Online and The Guardian reported on headteachers in Sutton who have written to parents about school budgets being “close to crisis”. The East Anglian Daily Times also reported that Suffolk primary and secondary leaders have written to the Government claiming they will be unfairly funded under the NFF.
It is important to be clear that school funding is at its highest level on record – over £40 billion per year in 2016-17 – and that no money is being taken out of the system. The national funding formula (NFF) sets out to update the way that funding is distributed, replacing an historical, unfair and outdated system.
Under the proposed NFF, Sutton schools would receive a 1.9 per cent increase in funding, over £2.6 million in total. Suffolk schools would see an even greater uplift of 2.7 per cent, over £10 million in total.
We know it is critical that we get this formula right so that our investment into schools has the greatest impact possible. That is why we are welcoming views from all schools, governors, local authorities and parents up until the consultation closes on 22 March 2017.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Over the last six years we have seen the number of children being taught in schools that are rated good or outstanding rise by more than 1.8 million. School funding is at its highest level on record, at more than £40 billion in 2016-17. We are protecting per pupil funding so where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will increase.
The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, but the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. It is based on patchy and inconsistent decisions that have built up over many years and on data that is over a decade old. We are going to end the historic post code lottery in school funding. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode.
We are consulting on how we propose to weight funding and we know that it is important that we get the formulae and system right so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact. The consultation will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.
To share your views on the national funding formula (NFF), please see here.