Education funding rules should be phased in

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As one of the union leaders we quote today says, it is ‘incredibly difficult to produce a formula that funds all schools in England fairly’.

However, even given that allowance, it seems obvious that the system being introduced by the government is doing a good job at throwing up a lot of unfairness.

We understand that moving to a formula – as in a mathematical equation – rather than have councils dole out cash is more transparent.

One way of looking at it would be to say that rather than being in thrall to the whims of education authorities, schools will know their budgets and be able to plan because everything will be predictable.

But the other way of looking at it – and one that is seemingly more accurate at the moment – is that whereas in the past education authorities have known their own patch, and passed money on to where it is needed, now there will be no subtlety, no light and shade, and no scope to help schools that have particular problems.

Because how can it be right that just in our own area, as we reveal today, as it stands schools in the Fareham area are set to be overall £1m better off, while those in the Havant area are in total set to be £1m worse off? That’s a big rise and a big drop, and sadly the losers – because in every area there are schools that will benefit and those that won’t – are looking at having to cut back on activities for children, spend less on equipment, and make staff redundant.

That’s where Sean Beech comes in. One can only feel sorry for Mr Beech, who after 14 years in the army has retrained to teach children how to read, and is devastated by losing his job – not for his own sake, but on behalf of the children who will not now get an education leg-up in life, and so who have slightly darker future.

We accept that the government does not have an infinite supply of money, and that a budget is a budget. By all means change the funding rules but cannot it be staggered over a few years so there is time to adjust? The effect otherwise will be a shock to the education system, and an unwelcome one at that.