Today’s news review examines coverage of our proposed changes to school funding, and the launch of a new childcare options website.
There has been widespread coverage of our proposed National Funding Formula today, March 22, ahead of the consultation closing tonight.
A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a letter from the NUT, ATL and NAHT unions, and a survey of members of the National Governors Association conducted by the BBC all concluded that our plans to eliminate the postcode lottery in school funding and replace the existing system with a new, fairer one are necessary.
On broadcast, the Today Programme, BBC Breakfast and the Victoria Derbyshire Show all addressed the story. The Guardian, the Financial Times, the Sun, the Times, the MailOnline, BBC Online, Independent and TES all report on school funding, with the majority choosing to lead with the IFS’s findings.
While coverage acknowledged that our proposed funding formula will address an imbalance in funding, some outlets focus on the IFS’ suggestion that we’ve made no guarantees on protecting schools from cuts after 2020. This is not true - we have protected schools from losing more than 3 per cent per pupil and that protection is guaranteed for the lifetime of the formula.
It is important to point out that the introduction of a national funding formula is not simply about moving money from the highest funded parts of the country to the lowest. It is about making a proper assessment of need and ensuring funding is distributed accordingly and on a fair and consistent basis.
Indeed, there has been a substantial increase in school funding over the years. IFS analysis shows primary and secondary spending per pupil have almost doubled in real terms between 1997-8 and 2015-16.
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 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42 billion by 2019-20. But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated.
It is clear that there is broad consensus on the need for a fairer funding formula to bring an end to the historic post code lottery in school funding. We have been consulting schools, governors, local authorities and parents and will carefully consider the responses to make sure we get the formula right and every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact.
We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services.
On the need for the formula:
- As the IFS concludes in its report published on 22 March, the proposed new funding formula is an ambitious reform that will "correct clear inequities in funding levels between local authorities which have come about due to a lack of a formula to allocate school funding to local authorities for the last 15 years."
- The IFS goes on to welcome the Government’s detailed consultation on a schools national funding formula. In its report it states: “When fully in place, this would ensure similar schools in different parts of the country receive a similar amount of funding. While this has been the ambition of successive governments, they have consistently shied away from the hard choices such a reform entails. The current government is to be applauded for making specific proposals, setting out the reasons for the choices it has made and publishing a large amount of data alongside these proposals to enable effective scrutiny.”
National Governors Association:
- The National Governor’s Association (NGA) has stated that “the principle of the formula is right” and the government should press ahead with the new formula in a survey for the BBC.
NUT/ ATL and NAHT:
- In a joint letter, the ATL, NAHT and NUT stated that “the government is right that we need a new funding formula for schools. It is right that this formula should contain a significant element of funding for disadvantaged pupils.”
- In its response to the consultation on the formula, ASCL has today stated: "The Department for Education is right to develop a funding formula for schools. Under the current system, the government allocates vastly different amounts of funding per pupil to different areas of England and 151 local authorities then apply their own formulae. This highly complex system creates serious inconsistencies in the level of funding received by similar schools with similar intakes in different areas of the country. It is a postcode lottery and has to be addressed.”
Today, 22 March, we launched our Childcare Choices website for parents, which sets out the childcare options the government offers to parents, in one place.
This announcement was covered by the Press Association and Nursery World.
On the Childcare Choices site, parents will be able to register for our 30 hours free childcare offer for working parents, ahead of us rolling it out nationally.
Interested parents can register their information on the site and be notified as soon as they are able to apply for a place.
Coverage has been informative, positively detailing options available – which also includes tax free childcare.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said:
Affordable childcare and early years education are a vital part of how we can get our children on the right path, whilst also helping parents to be back at work, if that is what they want. Many parents are struggling to balance the cost of childcare against the benefits of being in work and this government wants to help.
From today, parents can use the Childcare Choices website to find out what support is available for their family. Whether that’s our 30 hour free childcare offer, Tax-Free Childcare or Universal Credit, the website is a quick and easy way for parents to choose the offer that’s best for them and their children.
Parents can check to see what help they are eligible for on Childcare Choices.