I asked in this post recently how you would spend half a million pounds in Cornwall. That’s public money being spent on the roofs of seven churches here.

Now set your sights higher. Suppose you had £4.5 million pounds to spend in Cornwall: how would you use it?

Three years ago a state-supported free school, St Michael’s, was opened in Camborne. Taxpayers gave £0.7 million so that the building of the former Girls Grammar School could be bought and £3.8 million to make it fit for purpose for the new school, a total of £4.5 million.

In this September it is to be merged with – probably too kind a way of expressing the reality – the state secondary school in Camborne which has the grand name of Camborne Science and International Academy. The merger is because St Michael’s is not financially viable as a separate school and is not offering students the educational opportunities it should; Ofsted said in June 2014 that overall it ”requires improvement”. See this account of the story. The Ofsted report June 2014 is here.

I support enterprise and parents seeking the best in schooling for their children; free schools are part of that. However, government has a responsibility to scrutinise enthusiasm before handing over public money.

Therefore let us ask what investigation the Department for education for England did into the likely financial and educational viability of the free school before St Michael’s was approved and given taxpayers money. This impact assessment by the Department suggested that St Michael’s “attraction will be relatively niche” and the data about school places in the area strikes me as mixed. What convinced the Department that the school would attract pupils in numbers for financial viability and succeed? Has it analysed the outcome and what lessons has it learnt? Will any of the £4.5 million be got back? This information should be made public because government should be accountable for its decisions. The Department’s mantra on free schools is that they offer good value for money and will raise educational standards. No doubt some do but it is important to understand when things don’t work out.


12 September 2014

The other day John Pollard, the leader of Cornwall Council, talking about the funding by central government of rural and urban areas in England, said, “We currently receive less than half the money per head of population than that given to Hackney”.

Even if you think there is an urban/rural imbalance in funding and it should be righted, this is an ill-advised comparison. I’ve noted before simplistic Cornwall comparisons: see here for an MK one.

Anyway, let’s take up the challenge and compare Cornwall and Hackney over several fields.

I have chosen from the numerous fields that show how much more widespread deprivation and poverty are in Hackney than in Cornwall, aspects that should figure in the redistribution of central government funds to local authorities. Disadvantage impacts upon local government spending on services like housing, education, social care, and culture. Of course in some fields Hackney does better but the decider factors of government redistribution point to Hackney worse off than Cornwall. And of course in some fields, for example job seeker’s allowance for the unemployed, the funding is separate from that given directly to local councils. I am trying to show how Hackney suffers wide disadvantage.

I give a link to the online sources at the end of each section; note that at the source there may be other tables presenting information in various ways.

Note 4 April 2015: I have put here up-to-date data for the various items as in the post Fair funding for Cornwall of 3 April 2015

Index of multiple deprivation 2010 (next IMD due 2015)
This is a major measure of deprivation across several components such as income and housing. I have taken the rank of scores where 1 indicates the worst overall deprivation of 326 local authorities:

Cornwall 110
Hackney 2 (that is, worse than 324 of the 326 local authorities)


Free school meals
Percentage of pupils eligible for and claiming free school meals, January 2014, in state funded nursery and primary schools and secondary school

Cornwall 13.5% in nursery and primary schools, 11.9% in secondary schools
Hackney 30.2% in nursery and primary schools, 33.9% in secondary schools


Child poverty 2014
Cornwall 16.90% of children in poverty (before housing costs), 26.35 percent (after housing costs)
Hackney 27.46% of children in poverty (before housing costs), 41.37 percent (after housing costs)


Deprivation among pupils
The proportion of pupils eligible for the deprivation pupil premium 2014-2015 (provisional figures):
Cornwall primary pupils 22.5%, secondary 24.2%
Hackney primary pupils 48%, secondary 55.6 %


Bedroom tax
How many are adversely affected by the bedroom tax? These are the percentages for 9 May 2014, the latest available, of the tenants with housing benefit who have that housing benefit reduced because of the bedroom tax/spare room subsidy and the average weekly amount lost:

Cornwall 6.1%, £14.03
Hackney 8.1%, £21.07


Job seekers allowance
This is a measure of unemployment; the figures are the percentage of men and women aged 18-65 claiming job seeker’s allowance in July 2014:

Cornwall 1.4%
Hackney 3.6%

Source Put in the local authority name

Why does Hackney get more than Cornwall?
Why does Hackney get more? Hmm, I wonder if it’s anything to do with the scale of derivation and poverty and disadvantage that the data in the first part of this post shows? Cornwall is not a victim, unfairly funded in general; there are administrative areas of England worse off than us and they rightly get more government help. As I have explained ages ago, we can home in on particular places of severe disadvantage in Cornwall and elsewhere in England and should certainly help them.

Per pupil funding 2014-2015
Incidentally, the per pupil funding for 2014-2015 shows that 56 England local authorities get less than Cornwall. While some are notably prosperous places, the lesser funded also include places like Plymouth, Bury, and Nottinghamshire. The details are in Appendix B here. Of course Hackney gets noticeably more per pupil than Cornwall but you can understand that now.

Let’s end on good news for some in Cornwall. The Good pub guide 2015 says the average pint of beer in London costs £3.79. In Cornwall it’s £3.19.

Don’t forget to check the original sources to see the smallprint explanations.

The details of the 2014/15 local government funding by central government (the Settlement Funding Assessment)are here. Appendix B shows that Hackney is the highest per-dwelling funded of all the London authorities; several have lower per-dwelling funding than Cornwall.

On 16 September 2014 the Centre for London publishes London’s hollow promise: how the city fails people on modest incomes and what should be done about it, its report on working households in London on low to modest incomes and the housing difficulties and cost of living they face.


14 April 2014

Oh dear, MK still doesn’t get it.

On the MK website I read in a blogpost called We can do better: “Our children should enjoy the same educational opportunities as children up the country – not make do on half the money spent on pupils in the City of London”.

We certainly can do better.

I discussed this absurd comparison three years ago in this post. Shortly, there is only one state school in the City of London, Sir John Cass, a primary with 247 pupils; there about 39 000 primary pupils in more than two hundred primaries in Cornwall.

There are two clear mistakes in the MK whinge. It compares 247 pupils with 39 000, one school with more than two hundred. The City of London is not streets paved with gold, all banks and hedge funds and bonuses; parts of the City are residential and MK should acknowledge that some of those 7000 residents experience deprivation and it is that and costs which give the per pupil funding higher than Cornwall overall. It is the residents’ children who go to the excellent primary school. The school is in Portsoken ward which last month elected a Labour councillor.

Now I can understand that someone in Cornwall, unfamiliar with east London, might have a distorted view of the City of London from the media that talks only of money; however, the facts are readily available to those who look for them and I set out some of them in my 2011 post. It is shamefully unconvincing for Cornish political nationalism to disregard context, which is at the heart of any viable idea of fairness, and write starkly about “the money spent on pupils in the City of London”.

Let me repeat what I said in that post of 2011: “MK does not explain that the difference in funding is not a question of arbitrarily giving more money to the City of London education authority but rather is intended to reflect differences in costs and needs.”

Yes, MK can do better. If it wishes to be taken seriously, it must.

In Cornwall 17 percent of children are in poverty (mid 2012); in the City, Portsoken ward, in which the Sir John Cass primary school is sited, has 37 percent of children in poverty [Source: endchildpoverty.org.uk]. At Sir John Cass school in 2014/15 32.9 percent of primary pupils were eligible for the deprivation pupil premium; in Cornwall 22.5 percent of primary pupils [Source: illustrative figures here].

See these posts too: Stuffing mushrooms and nationalist tosh 5 April 2013 and Cornwall school funding 14 March 2014.


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).

A recent written parliamentary question to the Department for education asked about the fifty primary and secondary maintained schools in England with the highest and lowest per pupil spending: Hansard 25 April 2013, column 1196W.

The answer mentioned Cornwall. We do not figure in any of the secondary fifties, highest or lowest; nor in the primary lowest fifty. Garras primary school appears as the school with the thirtieth highest per pupil spending in England.

Of course one swallow and all that and circumstances and context and this is a redistribution within the Cornwall budget from central government; but it will be interesting to see how nationalism fits these figures into its one-size unfair funding scenario.

The definition of per pupil spending in the parliamentary answer was: “school level budget shares from local authorities’ section 251 budget returns for 2012-13 and using pupil numbers from the January 2012 annual school census.”

See columns AK and AL in the file Detailed level-schools information 2012-13 here.

Life is too short to stuff a mushroom and it’s too short to discuss all nationalist and other parties’ tosh but let me take a moment with one nonsense.

Once more I think an absurd comparison is suggested between schools in Cornwall and in the City of London.

I refer you back to the blog post MK, schools, and the City of London in which I dealt comprehensively with that comparison when it was made two years ago.

Unconvincing comparisons
There I said that you cannot meaningfully compare such a disparate pair, Cornwall education authority with 280 state schools and the City of London authority with only one, a primary; you cannot convincingly compare the average data of around 65 000 Cornwall state pupils with the data of an individual City of London state school with 200 or so pupils.

I also raised the important Aristotle principle that we should not treat unequals equally, the comparative deprivation data, and the ambiguity of value.

Stripping the nationalist altar still needed

I think MK should recast its arguments as I suggested in the post Stripping the nationalist altar.

In these Notes I put some updated some figures of comparison, along with the sources so that you may explore them yourself.

Child poverty
The Children in poverty organisation gives estimates for children in poverty for 2012: Cornwall 17 percent, in the City of London Portsoken ward 37 percent. However, note that Cornwall has very many more children than the City of London and there is a range across Cornwall from 6 percent in Feock to 36 percent in Falmouth Penwerris: such a range makes it problematic talking about Cornwall as one entity in this context. The City of London primary school is in Portsoken ward and there is a profile of the ward (based on the 2001 census) here.

Numbers of schools and pupils
The source of the data is in the pupil premium files here.

Pupils in state schools at 31 August 2011, full time equivalent: Cornwall 65 258, City of London 209

State schools: Cornwall 280 (236 primary), City of London 1

Pupil premium
There are in education data two approximate measures of deprivation and need in children and families: the pupil premium and free school meals.

The pupil premium data is is in the National, local authority, parliamentary constituencies – final allocations file gives pupil premium data for Cornwall as a whole and the City of London. The individual school data is at the Families tab on the School tables – final allocations file there; the range across schools suggests that the county-as-a-whole data is problematic.

The premium has three components: deprivation, by far the largest; service children; and looked-after children.

The percentage of pupils eligible for the deprivation pupil premium 2012-13: Cornwall 22.3 percent, City of London 31.1. Including the service children and looked after children components of the pupil premium: Cornwall 25.7, City of London 33.5. Note that the City of London has far fewer pupils than Cornwall.

Free school meals
Percentage of pupils eligible for and claiming free school meals 2012-13: Cornwall primary 14.1, Cornwall secondary 11.6, City of London primary 17.7
The data is in the file DfE: schools, pupils, and their characteristics, January 2012.

Financial data
The file on expenditure at school level 2009-10 (linked in the earlier post MK, schools, and the City of London) appears to be no longer available on the education department website. I am looking for its new location. Some data about individual schools can be found here in the excel file Table of allocations of dedicated schools grant (DSG) but you have to put in the name of the school.

Life is too short… Shirley CONRAN Superwoman 1975

Cornwall Council is showing imagination and innovation in its approach to helping young people in further and higher education – and with apprenticeships.

At the beginning of this year it introduced a bursary scheme to help Cornwall students in further education, Cornwall EMA (Education and Cornwall 27 January 2012) . Now it is proposing to give grants towards living and studying at university to Cornwall: see here (New deal for young people in Cornwall 5 July 2012). It is also looking to create two hundred apprenticeships.

The Tory-led council is to be thoroughly congratulated on its efforts to help the young people of Cornwall engage with their ambitions and futures – efforts which will help mitigate the EMA and tuition fees policies of the Tory Libdem government.