https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2017/03/03/education-in-the-media-3-march-2017/

Education in the media: 3 March 2017

Today’s news review examines coverage of a report into how disadvantaged children might be affected by the National Funding Formula, and a survey of parents’ opinions on independent schools.

Child Poverty Action Group

On Friday, 3 March, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) claimed that schools with the most disadvantaged pupils would be worst hit by funding changes brought about by the new National Funding Formula (NFF).

This report was covered in the Guardian, Sun, the i, TES and BBC Online. BBC Breakfast also covered the report, and featured a pre-recorded interview with Minister Gibb.

School funding is at its highest level on record but the system used to allocate that funding is out of date and that’s why we have published plans to make it fairer. Under these plans the majority of areas will gain but some areas that have been well funded in the past will get less.

While the Guardian acknowledges that 10,000 schools will gain under our plans, both it and the I say that the report suggests poorer pupils will be adversely affected.

What the report doesn’t take into account is that our proposed new funding formula increases the total funding directed to additional needs compared to local authorities’ current practice. We are proposing to allocate £3bn (9.3 per cent of the national schools budget) specifically for deprived pupils. This extra funding will help support schools to close the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier families.

The report is also based on flawed figures calculated by NUT. The union ignores the fact that pupil numbers – nationally and in many schools – are rising. Because per pupil funding is protected at current rates, this means more money in our schools.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17. But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. We are going to end the historic post code lottery in school funding and under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.

 

Our proposed new funding formula recognises educational disadvantage in its widest sense – including pupils who do not necessarily benefit from the pupil premium but whose families may be only just about managing. It also increases the total funding directed specifically to deprived pupils to £3bn.

 

It is fundamentally misleading to say that 98 per cent of England’s schools will be worse off in real terms. The union’s figures ignore the fact that school funding is driven by pupil numbers and as pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.

Independent schools

On Friday, 3 March, the Independent Schools Council published a report stating more than three in five people are in favour of a “Free to Families” scheme to create subsidised places at private schools.

The proposal was covered by the i newspaper and in the TES – neither of which include the department’s comment on our plans to create more school places.

A key element of our Schools That Work for Everyone consultation – which looked at ways to increase the number of good school places in England – is that we will seek to harness the expertise of independent schools so that children from all backgrounds may benefit. We are looking at the responses to the consultation and will respond in due course.

Alongside upcoming reforms, this year alone we are investing £2.5billion through the pupil premium to tackle educational inequality.

The Government is also targeting social mobility ‘coldspots’ with twelve ‘Opportunity Areas’ where we are working with local organisations, schools, colleges, and businesses to overcome barriers to social mobility and make sure young people from all backgrounds can go as far as their talents will take them. This is backed by £72 million Government funding.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

Our plans, as set out in the Schools That Work for Everyone consultation, are about creating more good school places in more parts of the country and one of the ways in which we have proposed to do this is by harnessing the expertise of independent schools.

 

We are considering the responses to the consultation and will publish our response in due course.

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