Baffled by a formula for change

While the political row over Tony Blair's choice of a grant-maintained school for his son hit the headlines, more profound questions about the funding of GM schools have remained obscure. But a new funding regime for GM schools, due to begin next April, is of great significance.

The Department for Education will announce next month the funding method for GM schools in 17 local education authorities (LEAs) - those where more than 30 per cent of secondary school pupils attend GM schools. The aim is to move away from relating the funding of GM schools to the spending decisions of its LEA, and towards basing it on the education element of a LEA's standard spending assessment (SSA, the assessment of what it needs to spend).

Under the new Common Funding Formula (CFF), an LEA's education SSA is distributed to a GM school using a national formula based on a variety of factors - namely, the latest pupil numbers, the number of free school meals, special educational needs and a particular school's fixed costs.

Transitional arrangements will ensure that this will not immediately lead to a drop in budgets for any GM school. The LEA can hold back a portion of the educational SSA for responsibilities relating to nursery provision, school transport that benefits GMpupils and for special needs support. An LEA is permitted to fund a locally managed school (LMS) at a lower level than a GM school.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) has expressed concern about these moves. It believes that this could be the first stage of "hypothecating" (earmarking) SSA, removing local authorities' powers to decide how to spend theirincome. Cipfa argues that this is contrary to ministers' expressed intentions, and will force authorities to cut back on other areas of spending.

"The Institute believes, along with many other organisations, that there is a need for a formula basis when distributing funds to GM schools," said Glenn Smith, financial policy development manager at Cipfa. "The present formula achieves that, but requi r es a certain amount of work, and produces oddities between LEAs."

Calderdale, one of the pilot authorities, has had to cut back on many services in order to bring educational spending up to its SSA. It is forced to fund GM secondary schools at SSA level, and if it fails to fund LMS schools similarly then they can be expected to opt out. If Calderdale fails to increase primary school spending in line with the secondary school allocation, then the authority's future years' educational SSA will be lower.

So this year Calderdale had to increase educational spending by 2.6 per cent at a time when its capping level increased by just 1.25 per cent. As a result, there have been significant cutbacks in leisure and social services, and next year there will needto be further cuts amounting to perhaps pounds 6m.

It could be argued that Calderdale has brought about its own problems by failing to spend to its educational SSA. But the Pennines authority claims it has no choice but to underspend on virtually all services compared with SSA, because it is allocated too little on its highways SSA to keep its roads open in winter.

Basing funding on SSAs will produce other bizarre results, says Cipfa. Schools will increasingly be "rewarded" for being in a deprived borough. A school in a well-heeled suburb of Manchester will be much better funded than its neighbouring school across the authority border in Stockport - although pupils may come from very similar social and economic backgrounds.

Robin Squire, the Schools Minister, dismisses these criticisms. Speaking at Cipfa's conference on the Common Funding Formula in October, he said that 95 per cent of headteachers involved in piloting the CFF said they would not return to the old system.

"The CFF has made clear for the first time what is spent on LEA continuing responsibilities, has brought into even sharper focus the split between spending on primary and secondary schools, and has given schools a clearer view than ever before of the basis of their funding."

Mr Squire did concede, though, that the new formula is very complex. "It is rumoured that only one civil servant in the DFE understands it," said David Jamieson MP, who sits on the Education Select Committee. He argued that witnesses to the committee, including GM heads and LEA directors of education and finance, found it virtually incomprehensible.

Mr Rob Higgins, headteacher of Charles Darwin secondary school in Bromley, one of the pilot CFF authorities, felt that despite its complexity, it was an improvement over the old system.

"It provided the basis for our development, and was at a level we thought was reasonable," he said. "The governing body shared the opinion that the Common Funding Formula attempted to give the budget more clarity, and a clearer basis for distribution. T h e DFE did their best to explain through meetings and roadshows how the funding formula worked, but it is a very complex mechanism. There is still some way to go to achieve total clarity."

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
life...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

    Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

    £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice