The new Secretary of State for Education has invented an updated variation of the Jo Moore outcome. This approach, readers will recall, was about issuing bad news on a busy news day so it didn’t receive much coverage. The current variation is to issue an important announcement at the end of a parliamentary term, either because you really need to say something or because it might receive less notice than at another time.
Anyway today’s announcement is the long awaited postponement of the second stage consultation on a National Funding formula for schools. http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statements/commons/?page=2
The gist of the statement in a written answer reads as follows;
I will therefore publish the government’s full response to the first stage of the schools and high needs consultations and set out my proposals for the second stage once Parliament returns in the autumn. We will run a full consultation, and make final decisions early in the new year. Given the importance of consulting widely and fully with the sector and getting implementation right, the new system will apply from 2018-19.
All this is, of course, subject to whether there is a general election in the autumn. So, for 2017-18 and I assume for September 2017 for academies, it is business as usual based on the present funding regimes up to age 16. Presumably Schools Forums around the country will have to agree the formula to be used locally at a meeting early in the autumn term.
The delay in taking the concept of a national funding formula forward is frustrating to those authorities that might see an increase, but a reprieve for areas such as London that could be losers under the new arrangements. How schools will react is difficult to tell, but I suspect that where budgets are under pressure already, despite the guarantees for pre-16 funding, schools will take a cautious line, especially while post-16 numbers are still in decline.
So, is this a new Secretary of State acting responsibly or admitting defeat because it is just too difficult a challenge in the present economic climate where there won’t be enough money to buy off potential losers? Who knows, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the autumn.
By 2018-19 the growth in the school population will mean that for there to be any winners the Treasury is going to have to find more money for education. The Treasury is also going to have to accept that universities are already factoring in increases in student fees to £9,250 for 2017 and one step the DfE might take is to review why universities are charging the same amount for classroom-based subjects as for science and technology subjects. Anything they learn from that investigation might helpfully be considered in the light of the needs of UTCs that are funded at the same rate as other schools despite higher revenue expenditure, as I have pointed out before in this blog.
So should we thank the Secretary of State for putting everyone out of their misery for another year or attack her lack of willingness to move a challenging issue forward? Tough call, but not for under-funded schools in areas such as Oxfordshire.