Tomorrow marks one of the final acts of the 2017-18 school year, the publication of examination results and the opening on the university ‘clearing’ round. Next week will see the publication of the examinations normally taken at 16+. From that point onwards, the 2018-19 school year might be said to have commenced.
One of the interesting challenges for the next year will be how well the new National Funding Formula copes with the unexpected changes that will emerge and have not been pre-programmed into the formula. One such, is the extent to which some schools will be affected financially if the movement of EU citizens out of England continues.
There has always been an ebb and flow of such citizens, but the balance until recently has been on the positive side of the equation. Should the flow turn negative over the next few quarters, while Brexit is sorted out, it seems likely that some schools, and probably some primary schools in particular, could lose a proportion of their pupil population, not to mention a few teachers and support staff as well. Losing the staff may help reduce expenditure, if they don’t need to be replaced, although many will I suspect need replacing.
More concern will be over the financial effects by 2020 of any reduced pupil numbers and hence lower income for the school. Successful schools that are over-subscribed will just let it be known that there are now places in particular classes and, hey presto, applications will materialise, as if by magic. But what happens to schools either thought to be less attractive to parents or in areas where they may be the only school?
In the past, local authorities could cope with the unforeseen changes in pupil numbers. Indeed, multi-academy trust can still do so by viring cash between schools in the Trust. Stand-alone academy trusts, with a single school, and maintained schools don’t have the ability to take that route. Cash cannot be moved around these schools. This might be a reason for schools in a weak financial situation to join a MAT, if they think they will receive help and not later be closed s uneconomic anyway.
How much of a concern might this issue of a potential pupil exodus be? A recent answer at the July meeting of Oxfordshire County Council revealed 11 maintained primary schools with more than 10% of current pupil numbers with non GBR EU citizenship. Now, some may either have parents with dual nationality or be unconcerned by Brexit, but a school of 250 losing just two percent might see a budget reduction of more than £20,000 in a full year: a not insubstantial sum to lose from a tight budget.
Should the DfE publish a full list of areas mostly at risk of losing pupils if there is an outflow of EU workers from England? No doubt the devolved administrations are also taking note of this issue and its implications for their schools?
Hopefully, there won’t be an issue, but, if there is, should schools muddle through or expect some anticipation of the problem and a solution within the National Funding Formula?