It’s hard to believe that we are still waiting for the Stage 2 consultation on the Schools and High Needs National Funding Formula (NFF). After Brexit and the changes in leadership in Number 10 and the DfE, it seems as if there are other priorities on the government’s mind. The rumour now is that the consultation will appear around the time of the Autumn Statement on 23rd November.
So we are back to the likelihood of a(nother) rushed consultation which encompasses the school holidays. You’d think a Department that runs schools would think about term dates, wouldn’t you?
I’m wondering if the delay has partly been because of political difficulties, as various MPs have realised that some of their schools could lose out and have made representations to the Minister. Deputations of head teachers from Tory-controlled LAs have been taking their concerns to Downing Street and Sanctuary Buildings.
If we were being optimistic, we might speculate that the delay has been due to negotiations about whether the Chancellor could find some more money. Taking funding away from schools that have been spending it to meet the needs of their pupils, in order to give it to others that need more, is really not the ideal situation to be in.
I’m also waiting for the government to realise what it will feel like when it introduces direct funding of schools from the centre. The announcement of the delay to 2018/19 didn’t mention whether this was also being delayed a year, or whether it was still planned for 2019/20 (which would get it sorted before the General Election). It’s not difficult to imagine what will happen: half the schools in the country will be marching to Sanctuary Buildings complaining about their budgets being cut, and the other half will be complaining that their increase is not enough.
Local authorities take all the heat at the moment – something DfE clearly recognised in the first consultation when they suggested LAs might be able to impose a worse Minimum Funding Guarantee if they had difficulty balancing the local formula in the interim period leading up to direct funding. LAs won’t be giving many thanks to DfE for that poisoned chalice.
School Cuts website
In the face of all this uncertainty, it’s no wonder, then, that NUT and ATL developed the School Cuts website at www.schoolcuts.org.uk, which shows their estimates of the impact of an NFF on every school in the country. Rather controversially, it shows the potential number of teaching posts that each school could lose. I understand the frustration that has led to this, but I’m wondering if it was wise to publish it without clear health warnings, since there is no publicly available information about what the NFF values will be.
Head over to my latest blog at https://schoolfinancialsuccess.com/school-cuts-alarmist-or-realist/ to see my analysis of the School Cuts information.
Support for schools
If you are a school that is fearful of what might happen with the NFF, take a look at the ebook I’ve produced with my friend and co-founder of School Financial Success, Nikola Flint at https://schoolfinancialsuccess.com/books/. This is based on the reality that if schools wait until final values are known for the NFF (December 2017, based on October 2017 census data), it could be too late.
‘A Helping Hand to Secure a Sustainable Budget’ is not just a book, but a complete set of tools to help schools produce best, middle and worst case scenarios for future funding over five years, based on a worst case scenario of the Minimum Funding Guarantee. It provides a step-by-step process to produce a Financial Sustainability Plan, to start the debate with staff and governors about how you can respond to potential funding reductions.
Our School Financial Success website includes more regular blogs exploring various aspects of school funding and finances, and gives the opportunity to sign up for a free fortnightly newsletter of news and views about school funding. Sign up on our home page at www.schoolfinancialsuccess.com.
I’ll be speaking at several conferences between December and March, starting with a workshop at the National Fair Funding Conference in Liverpool on December 13th, on Supporting Schools in Financial Difficulty. Hope to see some of you there.