Portsmouth and Hampshire headteachers welcome funding but will ‘wait and see how much money ends up in school accounts’

HEADTEACHERS have welcomed news of increased per pupil funding for 2021 but have warned it still doesn’t address more than a decade of real-term cuts.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 4:53 pm
Updated Friday, 24th July 2020, 11:46 am
Crofton School headteacher, Simon Harrison, welcomes the new money but says it is only catching up on years of under-funding. Picture: Loughlan Campbell

Education leaders have also warned they will ‘wait and see how much money actually ends up in school accounts’ over fears that any additional funding could be ‘swallowed up’ by additional costs and lost funding from elsewhere.

The government this week announced the Local Authority National Funding Formula (NFF) allocations for the per pupil funding of schools. It’s the second year of the government’s £14.4bn school investment package which is spread over three years.

A statement from the Department for Education said: ‘Total school funding in Portsmouth will increase by 4.9 per cent in 2021 compared with 2020, a £6m increase from last year, reaching a total of £132m in 2021. For Hampshire, total school funding will increase by 4.6 per cent in 2021 compared with 2020, a £37m increase from last year, reaching a total of £855m in 2021.’

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With schools set to return in September the government has announced Local Authority funding allocations for 2021.

Simon Harrison is the headteacher of Crofton School in Stubbington and said: ‘Any extra funding is welcome but we are still catching up on years of under-funding. The recent increases are only starting to take us closer to where we should be.’

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The National Funding Formula was introduced to try and divert funding towards catchment areas of social deprivation where greater support is needed.

Mr Harrison added: ‘I understand the principle but all schools need the right level of funding and so this only works if there’s enough money in the first place.’

Lyndhurst Junior School headteacher, Ali Beechurst (left), welcomes the funding but also highlighted the additional costs schools have faced due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Sarah Standing

Park Community School headteacher Chris Anders believes the government is ‘trying to do the right thing’ but said that any increases are often offset by additional costs which have to be covered by schools and a loss previously available central funding.

Mr Anders said: ‘Central government funding used to be available for additional resources such as careers advisers. It costs me £16,000 a year for a careers adviser to visit the school and this now has to come out of our per pupil funding. I speak to headteachers who are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on things which used to be funded centrally.’

A prime example is the recently announced 3.1 per cent pay increase for teachers which headteachers have confirmed needs to come from existing school budgets.

Mr Anders said: ‘The 4.6 per cent is just an average overall and some schools may actually end up getting less than the 3.1 per cent increase which will need to go straight out on teachers salaries.’

Headteacher at Lyndhurst Junior School in Portsmouth, Ali Beechurst, added: ‘This announcement, while welcome, is trying to make up for a lack of funding over a number of years. This pay rise, like last year’s pension increases ends up having to be covered by existing school budgets rather than new money.

‘The pandemic has also brought a lot of expense for schools – particularly cleaning bills – which all needs to be covered.’

The government has also announced new minimum 2021 funding levels for primary and secondary school children which is stipulated at £4,000 and £5,150 respectively. While well intended, Mr Anders believes this in itself can result in some schools being underfunded.

Mr Anders, who also sits on Hampshire County Council’s Schools Forum who ultimately distribute the money, said: ‘Socio-economic factors of some schools may mean they need to gain an additional seven or eight per cent based on their circumstances but the need to ensure all schools get the minimum amount can sometimes mean they don’t get this.

‘Also because Hampshire is generally seen as an affluent county, based on the NFF we get one of the lowest allocations in the country even though my school is more typical of a Portsmouth city school.’

The final decision on how much each individual school will receive in 2021 will be taken by individual council’s in the autumn.

Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for education, Suzy Horton, said: ‘Any new money is welcome but we will need to see what the net gain is once all cost and revenue streams have been finalised. For example the government announced the recent catch-up fund but at the same time schools lost the Year 7 grant for disadvantaged children.’

Shadow cabinet member for education and Conservative councillor, Terry Norton, said the council needs to ensure all schools receive at least the minimum per pupil funding.

Cllr Norton said: ‘I welcome the increase in per-pupil funding and call upon the local Labour Party and education unions to acknowledge this in a positive light. This is a positive step towards a hardened formula meaning that councils must pass a minimum funding amount on to schools.

‘I hope that this funding will be used to narrow the gap between Portsmouth schools and our statistical neighbours and tackle the educational inequalities experienced due to Covid-19.’

The news has been cautiously welcomed by Hampshire County Council.

Executive member for education, Councillor Roz Chadd, commented: ‘The additional funding into our schools, to deliver high quality education to the children of Hampshire, is much needed and welcomed. However, funding for Hampshire schools remains low.

‘The amount of any extra funding received will vary depending on the nature of the individual school.

‘With the ministerial statement confirming acceptance of the School Teachers Review Body’s recommendations for teachers’ pay, on average this is expected to add 3.1 per cent to the national pay bill. This, together with the impact of other inflationary pressures, means that any real term gain or loss for our schools will need to be considered in the context of their individual circumstances.’

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