14 March 2014

The Tory Libdem government has announced that it will review the distribution of school funding by central government and in the meantime proposes to give extra funds for 2015/16 to sixty two schools that it considers underfunded. I put the link at the foot of the post.

There are eight factors which the extra funds would be based on: these include the number of pupils who are deprived, have English as a second language, or are looked after; and how sparsely populated the small rural school area; and labour costs in the school area.

Cornwall is among the underfunded schools. The indicative figures show Cornwall getting an extra £54 per pupil, an increase in per pupil funding of 1.2 percent.

The Cornwall increase suggests to me that the howls of unfairness that have come from Cornish nationalism and elsewhere were exaggerated. In a table of the sixty two authorities getting extra funds Cornwall is at number forty three in terms of percentage increase (where position one is the highest percentage increase). Cornwall is in the bottom third for increases and £54 is not the major righting of a vast wrong.

I commend the shortfalls of other local authorities to Cornish nationalism and self-focus. Look at Cambridge, for example, where the funding is up by £275 per pupil: that is significant. Look at Bromley where it is £461 – and Bromley is in the mollycoddled, overaffluent southeast of nationalist demonology. The poverty of Cornish nationalism is shown in its failure to see that others are in need and in more pressing need across many services and funding in England and elsewhere. It sees internal fairness only in terms of Cornwall. This compass is too small, parochial, narrow; this world is too little. I have repeatedly said it isn’t just Cornwall, it’s never just Cornwall, and in these figures is startling confirmation.

The government says that the extra funds will not be taken from other local authorities; no one is a loser. Hmm. Some of the money comes from the Treasury and some from the Department for education (DFE); the DFE funds are not been publically identified so it is not possible to test the no-loser claim.

For the long term a new allocation formula will certainly throw up losers, schools that get less per pupil than now. However, that will be safely after the general election. It is far from clear that Cornwall will gain much from a new post-election redistribution.

It is disappointing that it is cried up that Cornwall receives, even after the extra funds, less than the England average. The average is largely irrelevant. I think what counts is need. Individual schools vary in the various deprivations of their pupils and their funding should try to reflect those differences wherever they are in England. That is an important role of central government, to resist and rise above parochial claims.

This link is to the 13 March 2014 DFE funding proposals. Annex B lists local authorities and increases in funding to them.

The announcement in the Commons and subsequent geographic fest by MPs are here (Hansard 13 March 2014 column 427).