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Bucks per-pupil funding gap revealed

New goverment figures show the amount each school is awarded per student.

Published by Scarlett Bawden-Gaul with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Katie Williams and Joseph Hook, Data Reporters at 1:48pm 19th March 2020. (Updated at 2:33pm 19th March 2020) 6-minute read.

Bucks per-pupil funding gap revealed

New data reveals the gap in per pupil funding for schools in Buckinghamshire.

The huge disparity in per-pupil funding across Buckinghamshire's schools has been revealed in new government data.

The widest gap was seen in primary schools with Speen Church of England school in Princes Risborough receives over £8,000 per pupil, and Monks Risborough CofE school in Aylesbury getting just under £4,000 per student.

35 secondary schools in the area were also included, with the gap smaller but still in the thousands.

Data from the Department for Education reveals that Buckinghamshire UTC received £6,496 in funding for each of its 102 pupils this academic year.

The Chalfonts Community College, which has the largest number of pupils (1,300), came 17th in the table, with a per-pupil fund of £4,883.

Buckinghamshire County Council told us funding is controlled by the Department for Education.

In a statement they said:

"The DfE currently allows local authorities to use a local funding formula to allocate money to schools. Since 2018-19, Buckinghamshire County Council in collaboration with Buckinghamshire’s School’s Forum (a representative body of schools in the county) agreed as a principle to adopt the National Funding Formula in their local formula, but scaling down each of the factors to match the total schools funding from the DfE.

"This decision to move away from a historic funding formula was taken to allow schools to prepare for the National Funding Formula when it is finally introduced by the Government."

Bucks County Council - County Hall

The Council told us that in 2019/20 the overall funding in the local formula reflected the 99.17% of the national funding rates and in 2020-21 the local formula will reflect 100% of the National Funding Formula.

The National Funding Formula allocates more than 80% of the grant funding according to pupil led factors. Of which over 70% is based on an age related basic entitlement and 4% via Deprivation factors (pupils registered for free school meals and deprivation as assessed on pupil’s home postcode). 

Each school also receives a lump sum element that accounts for 8% of the total funding to the local authority. For schools with a smaller number of pupils, such as Buckinghamshire UTC, the lump sum element will be the biggest part of the per pupil funding.

In 2019/20 the DfE’s minimum per pupil funding for secondary schools was £4,800 per pupil. For Buckinghamshire this was reduced to £4,760 (99.17% of the national rate). Schools that have higher levels of funding through deprivation and low prior attainment factors will usually attract funding above the minimum.

In 2020-20 the minimum per pupil funding rate will be a mandatory requirement in local formulae and this has been set at £3,750 for Primary Schools (rising to a  minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22) and £5,000 for Secondary Schools.

School work

The spokesperson added:

"GCSE outcomes show that our 37 secondary schools are achieving very highly. In the key measure of Attainment 8, Buckinghamshire, with an average figure of 55.1 point, was significantly above the national average of 46.8. This places the authority and fifth overall nationally. Pupils also make better progress within the county than nationally with our progress measure being published at 0.16 which is significantly above the national average. 

"This success is replicated for sixth forms where we can see Buckinghamshire outperforming all of our statistical neighbours for A level results. Pupils scored, on average, a B- for their A levels, but we also had a high number of high performing students, in a measure looking at the percentage of students achieving grades AAB or better, Buckinghamshire came third out of all authorities nationally.

"This is result of excellent teaching in schools and demonstrates that our schools are delivering strong results within their funding envelopes. Outcomes like this do not happen in isolation and are due to highly effective education for learners from their time in nurseries through to their secondary education."

The national picture

The new experimental figures cover all state-funded maintained schools and academies in England.

Schools funding comprises budgets set by the local authority alongside cash from government grants. The current system, in which budgets are set according to what has been awarded historically, allows for huge differences in how much funding pupils living in different areas of the country receive.

A national funding formula, first announced by the Government in 2016, will replace more than 150 different formulae with one nationwide system. All local authorities will have to follow the new formula by 2021.

However, the Education Policy Institute think tank says the new approach could direct extra cash towards more affluent schools which "risks widening the education attainment gap".

Pound Coin - Money

Jon Andrews, deputy head of research at the EPI, said:

"Schools have seen growing pressures on budgets in recent years. Between 2009-10 and 2019-20, school funding per pupil fell in real terms by around 8%.

"The Government's plans would reverse these school funding cuts, but that would still mean that per pupil funding in 2022-23 is no higher in real terms than in 2009.

"The Government has vowed to ‘level up’ school funding, by increasing the minimum level of per pupil funding that primary and secondary schools receive. This approach will, however, disproportionately direct additional funding towards more affluent schools with the least challenging intakes."

Under the NFF, the minimum per-pupil funding levels in 2020-21 will be set at £5,000 for secondary schools, while primary schools will get a minimum of £4,000 per pupil from 2021-22, according to a DfE spokesman.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"Schools are struggling to meet demand because the number of pupils has significantly increased since 2010-11, and school costs have risen faster than inflation.

"They have also been hampered by successive Conservative-led Governments unwilling to accept that it is they who are choking the system and failing generations of young people."

The DfE spokesman added:

"We recognise schools have faced cost pressures in recent years - that is why we are levelling up funding to ensure all schools have the right investment to deliver an outstanding education.

“This means that every school in the country will see per pupil funding rise at least in line with inflation next year."

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