school funding

Revolutionising School Funding in England

PAG Staff2024, Article, DfE, free schools, Fund, Inequalities, Local Authorities, Policy, Schools

Revolutionising School Funding
in England

In a thought-provoking and timely report released by the Confederation of School Trusts (CST) this month, the educational landscape in England is poised for a transformative shift through proposed reforms to school funding. Titled "Funding Futures", this detailed document underscores the urgent need for a funding system that is both fair and sufficient, amidst a backdrop of diminishing per-pupil spending and increasing demands on educational institutions.

The Fragility of the Current System

The CST report commences by painting a sobering picture of the existing funding mechanism which has seen a real-term decrease in school spending per pupil by 5% from 2010 to 2023. Schools have been grappling with a myriad of financial pressures—from soaring energy bills and high staff turnover, to an increasing number of pupils with special educational needs, and this financial strain is juxtaposed with an escalating child poverty crisis and the demands for improved mental health support, painting a dire need for a revamped and resilient funding framework.

Proposed Reforms and their Implications

One of the standout features of the CST's proposal is the call for a fully implemented National Funding Formula (NFF). This aims to ensure all schools receive baseline funding that is equitable, transparent, and reflective of their unique circumstances. The report also argues for the integration of existing additional funding streams, such as the Pupil Premium, into the NFF to reduce complexity and ensure schools can effectively plan and utilise funds.

Furthermore, the CST advocates for a revolutionary approach to funding Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and Alternative Provision (AP); by moving away from a deficit model and ensuring funding is proactive rather than reactive, the CST envisions a system where funding supports what children can achieve, rather than focusing on their limitations.

Capital Funding: A Strategic Priority 

Another critical area highlighted is the inadequate capital funding for school maintenance and improvements. The report reveals a stark gap between the needs of the school estates and the available funding, exacerbated by outdated approaches like the Private Finance Initiatives (PFI). CST suggests innovative funding mechanisms, such as a Civic Duty Levy or enhanced developer contributions, to address these shortcomings.

Despite the ambitious nature of these proposals, the CST report is candid about the challenges in implementation, particularly the complexity of navigating current funding streams and the potential resistance to changing long-entrenched systems. It recommends a collaborative approach, involving stakeholders at all levels, to ensure that the funding reforms are not only implemented but also sustainable and effective in the long term.

A Call for Action 

"Funding Futures" is more than just a policy recommendation; it's a call to action for systemic change that ensures all children in England have access to a quality education, regardless of their socio-economic background or educational needs. The CST's report provides a detailed roadmap for how such transformative change can be achieved, urging all involved in the educational sector to consider these proposals seriously.

This analysis serves as an invitation to educators, policymakers, and the wider public to engage with the CST's recommendations and contribute to a funding revolution that promises not only to sustain but also enrich the educational landscape of England.

How can PAG help? 

While our ability to directly affect the funding your school or trust receives is limited, there are still pletny of ways that PAG can support you to better manage or allocate your funding.

Services like capacity mapping can help you to see a clearer picture of your operations, outlining where there is need to bolster or reduce resources for instance, while our support when writing appliations for funding cans be an enormous boon, with over £5 million secured for PAG clients via the Trust Capaity Fund (TCaF) alone.

If you'd like to speak to us about how we can support your school or trust, simply use the Contact page above and we'll be in touch shortly to arrange a call.