More money to be handed to schools 'in leafy suburbs' than in poorer areas, minister admits

Asked about the winners from new funding rules, introduced under pressure from Tory MPs, Nick Gibb says 'They may well be in leafy suburbs'

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Saturday 08 August 2020 11:34
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Nick Gibb admits schools 'in leafy suburbs' will get more cash

More cash will go to schools “in leafy suburbs” than in poorer areas under new funding rules, a government minister has admitted.

Nick Gibb accepted a highly-critical analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI), which found that next year’s spending boost would favour schools in affluent parts.

The schools minister defended the decision on the basis that it was correcting “historic underfunding” in some areas outside of England’s big cities.

But, asked about the winners, when an extra £7.1bn is handed out over four years, he acknowledged: “They may well be in leafy suburbs.”

The aim was to “level up funding”, to ensure every primary school received at least £4,000 per pupil, with a £5,150-per-head floor in secondaries.

“That does mean that the historically underfunded schools are getting a larger increase than the schools that have been well funded in the past,” Mr Gibb told BBC Radio 4.

The admission came as the minister promised “hygiene rules” on new buses to be introduced to help with the full return to schools in the autumn.

Pupils over 11 years of age would be expected to wear masks, he said, even though they would not be required to do that when they reach their classrooms.

Other measures such as pupil ‘bubbles’, increased hand hygiene and staggered lunch breaks would be in place to keep pupils distanced and in school buildings.

“The advice we've had about wearing masks in school is, if they're not competently handled, you can actually increase the risk of spreading the virus by having the mask worn all day in the school environment,” Mr Gibb argued.

The new national funding formula was introduced after fierce pressure from Conservative MPs, who protested that urban areas received too big a slice of the schools’ spending cake.

The EPI found that disadvantaged primary school pupils in poorer areas will receive a real terms funding increase of 0.6 per cent – while their more affluent peers are set to receive 1.1 per cent.

White British pupils will get real terms increases of 1.4 per cent, compared with 0.5 per cent for non-white British pupils, its report said.

Meanwhile, pupils speaking English as their first language will get real terms increases of 1.2 per cent, compared with just 0.3 per cent for pupils where it is an additional language.

The settlement in secondary schools is more evenly spread, but white British pupils will still get real terms increases of 0.7 per cent – whereas for non-white British pupils the rise will be 0.3 per cent.

Jon Andrews, the EPI’s deputy head of research, warned the “longstanding link” between school funding and pupil need was “being eroded by the policy of levelling up”.

But Mr Gibb insisted overall funding would still be weighted towards schools in poorer areas, with top-ups where English is not commonly the first language and through the pupil premium.

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