25 July 2014

The Department for education (DFE) has announced £390 million extra funds in 2015/16 for the sixty or so local education authorities in England which it says are the least fairly funded. As part of this Cornwall education authority is likely to get an extra £4.9 million and its provisional mean average per-pupil funding will then be £4472. I say ‘average’ because the actual distribution of the £4.9 million will not be arithmetically equal among Cornwall schools; and ‘provisional’ because the 2015/16 figures are subject to what are the pupil numbers thrown up by the autumn 2014 school census.

The DFE data reveals an interesting fact. In the current year 2014/15 there are fifty six England education authorities which have lower mean average per-pupil funding than Cornwall, including Surrey and Wokingham in the overfed southeast of nationalist myths. In 2015/16 there are at present sixty one authorities with lower mean average per-pupil funding than Cornwall. Cornwall is not at the bottom of the funding table; it is not singled out for unfair schools funding.

The government is looking at the formula for deciding funding for schools and local education authorities and thinking about a national funding formula. School funding is a difficult and contentious issue that the shouters for “fairer funding” should explore. Which characteristics should be included and what weight given to each in the distribution formula? Deprivation, the number of looked after children, the extent of English as an additional language, low prior achievement of pupils, rural sparsity affecting the numbers of pupils in a school, and local labour costs are among components. Balancing these is of course much harder than whining simply for fairer funding and Libdems and nationalists especially should be challenged to explain in detail what funding arrangements they seek.

The extra money is a welcome and reasonable response to the current position, a small step towards a funding everyone can agree is as just as possible. The imminence of general elections can have good effects.

For the detailed figures look at DEP2014-1084 of 17 July 2014 (Annex C) in deposited papers here.