On 16th December 2016, the Government announced stage two of their consultation on a national funding formula (NFF) for schools. As a Governor at two schools in my constituency and parent with 4 children at primary and secondary schools, I appreciate the significant financial challenges facing schools. Cuts to school funding have a wide-reaching impact on the many pressures in school budgets and my primary concern is the impact on the most vital school resource - our teachers. Even before the planned changes to school funding, school budgets were seriously challenged, particularly in terms of recruitment and retention of teachers.
I have met this week with the Education Secretary to express my concern that the Government’s proposal does not account for the ‘full cost’ of running a school. The additional costs such as pay rises, the introduction of the national living wage, higher employer contributions to national insurance and the teachers’ pension scheme, non-pay inflation and the apprenticeship levy are a reality for all schools in my constituency.
The National Audit Office has forecast that such cost pressures will require mainstream schools to save £3 billion, over half of which the Department of Education expects to come from reducing the workforce by 2019/2010.
I am though relieved at least that the Government are not planning to reduce the overall cash coming to schools in Enfield Southgate which will see a total small increase of £0.4 million. Neighbouring Enfield North would see a larger increase of £3.1 million. The initial NFF recognises the additional pupil needs of an outer London borough like Enfield compared to inner London boroughs. This means the funding formula is fairer to Enfield than past funding settlements which have not reflected the growing demographic and deprivation challenges facing our borough.
The NFF provides 18.1% of schools budget for ‘additional needs’ based on low prior attainment, deprivation and English as an Additional Language. Enfield Southgate will directly benefit from these additional funds which will remain flexible depending on the need. This is a welcome improvement on the current system.
I am also pleased that the NFF recognises the acute cost pressures facing London schools and the need for top up funds. I am scrutinising this part of the NFF to see whether it is adequate. Particularly when the wider costs pressures mean that Enfield Southgate schools would have to find total savings of approximately £3 million by 2018/19 under the NFF plans.
I have received direct assurance from the Education Secretary that the NFF Consultation is a genuine one. The proposal remains provisional and the figures illustrative. The part of the NFF which appears most open to change is the geographical area costs element which considers the variation in the teacher labour market. The DfE consultation explains how the proposed reduction in funding for London is due to a change in how area costs are calculated. The relevant part of the consultation says:
“Historically these used a general labour market approach, assuming that the additional costs of recruiting teachers across the capital would parallel the additional costs of recruiting general workers. However, we know the differentials on teachers’ pay between London and the rest of the country are smaller than general labour market (GLM) differentials and thus the historical GLM area cost adjustment (ACA) gave higher levels of funding to London than could be justified by the actual costs faced by schools”.
The DfE’s simplified ‘per-pupil’ formula will mean that schools will attract the same amount of funding wherever they live, before an ‘Area Cost Adjustment’ is applied. This model will reduce the role of local authorities in targeting investment where needed considering the high labour market costs particular to London.
I am asking Enfield Council, schools, parents and other interested parties to help me make the case for recognising the additional costs facing Enfield and to challenge the current settlement which will be inadequate for the needs of my local schools. I recognise that if the planned NFF was implemented Enfield schools would face cuts to school budgets which would directly impact upon teachers. In my constituency it is projected that 15 out of the 22 schools will lose out. So schools with a high intake of pupils with challenging needs like Garfield, Bowes, De Bohun, West Grove, Hazelwood and Highfield could face additional cuts to their school budget. Coming on the back of all schools already struggling to balance the books with increasing costs, I am opposing this settlement.
I would urge all those responding to the consultation to represent the full cost to recruiting teachers in London.
I am confident that the Government will continue to listen to my constituents up until the deadline of March 22nd 2017. I will continue to meet with concerned local groups and make representations to the Schools Minister. I have arranged a cross-party MPs meeting later this month with the Schools Minister in an effort to get a better deal for schools in my constituency and surrounding Boroughs.
David Burrowes MP