Cllr Caroline ffiske writes:
Last night I attended the LBHF Save our Schools rally where the Labour Council committed to fight against fairness in school funding. (Labour against fairness – hurray!)
First I should explain some background to the proposed National Fair Funding Formula for schools about which the Government is currently consulting. A group of local authorities – who call themselves the F40 Group – have been lobbying for a new schools funding formula for years. The reason is that at the moment some schools receive more than £2000 per pupil, per year, less than other schools.
The authorities that have been fighting for a Fair Funding Formula are both Labour and Conservative authorities – and the F40 Group has the support of Labour and Conservative MPs. And it has the support of hundreds of Labour and Conservative councillors up and down the country.
F40 local authorities represent between them 9,000 schools – that’s 41% of schools in England – and those schools cater for 2,817,857 pupils – nearly 36% of all England’s pupils.
The Labour vice-chair of the F40 group is Vernon Coaker MP. He has said: “F40 has become an extremely important voice in education and has the respect of the government, which has listened to the group’s arguments, recognised the injustice of the system and promised to work with the poorest funded local authorities to develop a new and fairer national funding formula. I am extremely keen to be part of that discussion and look forward to having a central role in the group and fighting in Parliament for fairer funding.”
Labour MP, Vernon Coaker, and I both believe in fairness. And I am proud that a Conservative Government is leading this review.
So that is the background.
The proposed new funding formula is simple. It proposes a basic per pupil block. Then funding based on additional needs such as deprivation, low prior attainment, and English as an additional language. Then additional funding based on the schools circumstances such as sparsity and split sites. Then an uplift for additional area costs. For London that is known as the Area Cost Adjustment.
What is great about the formula is that it is simple and that it is transparent. It provides the framework – and the relevant variables – around which we can go forward and debate truly fair funding for schools. Here it is:
Turning now to Hammersmith & Fulham – and indeed London schools. At the moment London schools are looking like they will lose out under the proposed formula because of the weightings given to different factors. The maximum loss will be 3% of funding. But this is coming at the same time as other funding pressures on schools.
As a Conservative involved in education I am extremely proud of the Conservative’s record on education. Last week when I saw Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, I spoke to her about my concerns around the wider funding pressures and I will continue to do this at every opportunity.
Going forward I encourage educators and parents in Hammersmith & Fulham to look at the proposed funding formula here (see the Executive Summary):
And to consider responding via the survey. We should all look very carefully at the weightings given to the “additional needs funding”. (For example, in my daughter’s Y3 class, amongst eleven girls there are at least six first languages spoken.) And to the area cost adjustments that need to address the disproportionate cost of living and recruiting in London.
At the meeting last night I proposed that people looked carefully at these factors and that the most effective way to respond to the consultation is likely to be around these factors. Cllr Fennimore dismissed this idea as encouraging “pro-forma” responses. Dennis Charman instead suggested that people just reject the commitment to fair funding as a bad idea(!). H&F Labour Councillors advice was that people should ~ “email and tweet” the relevant Conservative MPs. They also asked people to submit their email addresses to be kept informed about further activity. I was very disappointed at this lack of seriousness. To use his own words, perhaps Cllr Steve Cowan is simply “email harvesting”.
What Cowan is doing is slightly more – he is acting as a community organiser to support the Labour cause in future elections – note that the most prominent activities he is involved in (Charing X & this one) are areas where he has no power or responsibility for whatsoever. Meanwhile in areas like council housing which he does control he is incompetently wasting time and money on aborted privatisation plans.
Yes. Hammersmith has been reduced to a defensive base for Labour to launch attacks against the awful Tory government. A sort of political Fort Douaumont. In the meantime the roads are crumbling and weeds are coming up through the pavements.
Without understanding this issue in detail I was still shocked to see the difference in funding per head between London boroughs like ours and English boroughs such as Wokingham. Roughly £7k vs £4k/child/yr or thereabouts.
It does seem hard to justify such differences. They clearly go beyond equalising for higher costs and complexity: higher funding has driven an outperformance of state schools in the capital relative to many struggling areas in the rest of the country.
A modest amount of convergence seems hard to argue against.