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Schools to be hit by funding bombshell

September 5, 2012 10:39 PM

Changes to the way Wiltshire Council distributes money to schools could have a severe impact on education in the county. The changes are as a result of the government's determination to 'simplify' the formula which is used to decide how much each school gets.

At the moment a wide range of factors are taken into account. These include the overall number of pupils, and how many of them have special needs or come from deprived areas. WC also makes allowances for children whose parents are in the armed forces to compensate for the higher number of moves they experience and the extra cost this imposes on schools near the garrisons. This is one of the factors which won't be permitted in future.

Instead the number of factors will be limited to: total number of pupils; deprivation; number of children in care; number with Special Educational Needs; number who don't speak English as first language; pupil mobility; number of post-16 pupils; rates; costs of PFI. There is also an allowance for schools with split sites, and a lump sum per school.

DfE rules say the lump sum has to be the same for all schools. At the moment, more logically, the sum is bigger for secondary schools than for primaries.

A consultation is underway with schools to decide the details of the scheme, and where there is discretion the Schools Forum will decide which options to take, with the final decision being made by the WC cabinet.

There will be winners and losers. However a damping mechanism means the losers will see their budgets reduced by at most 1.5% per year, whilst gainers will be capped at 0.8%pa.

Schools will also have the option of taking some of the money Wiltshire Council uses to support schools. In return the level of support would no longer be available to them. This happens automatically with Academies. Things covered by this include insurance, maternity costs, trade union facilities, behaviour support.

One concern about the new proposals is that the government has created a model for urban areas and then imposed it on shire counties like Wiltshire where it may not work very well.

The new arrangements will be in place for the financial year beginning April 2013. Head teachers and governors will need to be prepared for some difficult budgetary decisions at that time.