The ASCL line about fairer funding being about equity but also sufficiency is spot on. Whilst the whole topic may appear rather dry to some people your job may depend on the outcome of the discussions; quite literally.
The implementation of a Fairer Funding formula is neatly timed for 2017; after the mayoral election in London with the capital almost certain to be one of the big losers in any funding redistribution. To give you the scale of the issue, St. Mary’s in Blackpool, one of the ten worse funded local authorities in England, would have received an additional £2 million per year if it had been funded at the level of some London schools. Bucking the usual trend; fairer funding would see money moving from the South to the North which may well help the “dire North” do better.
Whilst it would be easy to sit in the previously impoverished North waiting for the money to roll in, London schools have shown what can be done when sufficient funding is available alongside other levers of improvement. London Challenge probably succeeded due to a number of reasons: peer support & challenge, good teachers and leaders, a higher number of aspirational immigrants who valued education plus sufficient resource and capacity to address previously unresolved issues. Money isn’t always the answer but it can help in a number of situations. The ongoing real terms reduction in school funding alongside reductions due to Fairer Funding redistribution may tip many London schools over the edge. Equally a 10% increase in funding for a school will only take it back, in real terms, to the funding levels of 2014/15. The schools benefitting from any funding redistribution will still be well below the average funding levels for England. All schools having sufficient funding is arguably a more important first step than equal funding.
Common sense, a bit of financial knowledge and some limited experience of school funding being redistributed tells me the best time to introduce fairer funding is when the overall national budget for schools in increasing. Keep the budgets of higher funded schools cash flat whilst using the additional funds to increase the budgets of poorer funded schools. Keep closing the gap year on year. A lack of sufficiency may well make any redistribution of funding feel a little bit of a hollow success.
Alternatively of course, the London-centric Westminster bubble could easily decide the whole thing is getting a bit too messy, a bit too close to home and Fairer Funding will be shelved for yet another Parliament or two.
#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week. The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short. It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger. The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.