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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Cumbria council lobbying MPs over changes to schools funding

Cumbria's MPs are being lobbied by the county council over changes to the way schools are set to be funded.

Eddie Martin photo
Eddie Martin

Dozens are said to be at risk of closure because of alterations in the way government money is shared out. Some will see funding slashed by a third from 2015.

Ministers say the new system is fairer, more logical and transparent.

But it gives councils much less leeway in allocating the cash. In Cumbria, it will affect how the council distributes £260m a year to 345 schools.

The new formula takes account of pupil numbers, deprivation, premises costs and the numbers of special needs’ pupils, children in care and those whose first language is not English.

The council can also include a lump sum, anything up to £200,000, but it must pay the same amount to every school regardless of size.

If the lump sum is high, small schools gain but large schools lose out. If it is zero, or a relatively small amount, big schools gain while smaller schools lose.

Officials are consulting schools on having a lump sum of £50,000, £70,000 or £85,000. The council’s cabinet makes a final decision on November 8.

Although the new rules apply from April, there will be a two-year transition period during which no school’s budget can fall by more than 1.5 per cent. The full impact will be felt from April 2015.

The council wants an extension to the transition period.

Council leader Eddie Martin said: “Two years isn’t long enough. We would like the transitional period extended to five or even six years.

“There will be a significant number of smaller schools, primarily rural, that could lose between six and 30 per cent of their funding. It doesn’t need me to say what the impact of that might be."

He has written to all Cumbrian MPs asking for their support in making the case to Government that "we need much more time to implement the changes and greater local flexibility to protect schools where closure simply wouldn’t be an option."

Workington Labour MP Tony Cunningham said Cumbria’s six MPs would have set aside political differences to lobby the Government for changes.

He added: “We need to work with the council to ensure that no child is disadvantaged because of this.”

Funding for sixth-forms is not affected by the changes, nor is the pupil premium – additional money based on the number of pupils receiving free school meals.

For details of how your local school could be affected, see today's News & Star

Have your say

@Anon - "I think you'll find the Tories are spending more on education"

Really? Square that with what the institute for fiscal studies said when they published a report in October 2011 that found spending on education between then and 2014-15 will fall by 13% – the fastest fall in any four-year period since the 1950s.

But, getting back to the issue discussed in this particular article - how can this method of distributing funds be beneficial to the education system?

Posted by Evil McBad on 19 September 2012 at 18:17

OK, Anon of 7.38, one fact springs out from the article. Our conservative dominated coalition government is proposing that a small village school should receive the same lump sum funding as a much larger urban school.

I am not party political and fully aware that both Tony Blair and David Cameron had privileged upbringings at Fettes and Eton respectively.

The fees at Eton are just short of £30K a year and if each of their 1300 pupils there pay the full boarding fees, then Eton will have an income of c£39m per year.

I am not asking for £39m for my daughter's school - I am just asking as a taxpayer that financial resources are distributed fairly. How can it be fair to allocate the same lump sum to a large school as that distributed to a smaller school? I suspect that the answer may well turn out to me, 'we are actually giving school A nothing or next to nothing' and school B nothing or next to nothing and what can be be fairer than that?'

Posted by Anon2 on 19 September 2012 at 15:51

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