As a Headteacher in a Local Authority which has been chronically underfunded, I am cynically optimistic about this development. Northamptonshire is one of the lowest funded 40 Local Authorities for education in the country in an unfair system which is explained in a nutshell on the F40 website as follows:
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has calculated that the 10 best–funded areas on average received grants of £6,297 per pupil, compared with an average of just £4,208 per pupil in the 10 most poorly funded areas. (F40 – Campaign for Fairer Funding in Education).
Let’s do the Math…
2014-15 budget information provided by the ASCL indicates that the average Local Authority ‘per-pupil’ funding national average is £4550.54. In Northamptonshire average is £4118.60 which equates to a difference of £431.94 per pupil.
So crudely, in my school of 432 children, if we were to be funded at the national average per child, this would be an increase to the budget of £186,598.08; the equivalent of an additional 4 and a half experienced teachers, 13 Teaching Assistants or 1 stonking staff wellbeing program!
Across our Multi-Academy Trust with around 2700 children, that would equate to over a million pounds (£1,166,238) across seven schools. Imagine the impact on learning and outcomes we could make with a teaching war-chest like that.
Now I know it doesn’t work just like that and there’s a far more complicated calculation which means that funding wouldn’t be distributed this way but it makes it really clear why there’s such a need to even out funding across the country, particularly as underfunded schools continue to be judged by the same standards as the rest of the country.
SHOW ME THE MONEY!
Earlier this year, myself and the other 370 odd Headteachers in Northants were treated to this letter from Ofsted’s regional director, Chris Russell, expressing his concerns about the quality of education in our county. You can read the long list of data outcomes which compare poorly to other regions and Local Authorities.
Whilst this ruffled various feathers across the county, sadly, this was business as usual for the majority of school leaders; Northamptonshire has historically seen lower educational outcomes in comparison to other counties. For the last 9 years of my life as a Headteacher, I’ve been shuffled in to a room with other colleagues and been lectured as to how we need to up our game due to poor comparisons with our ‘statistical neighbours’.
Now, I could do the obvious thing which would be to plea poverty whilst also pointing out that, despite having one hand tied behind our backs, we’ve managed to raise standards to above the national average (and therefore significantly above the LA average) both at Simon de Senlis and in schools across the trust but that would be to put egos before a more systemic and more important issue so I’ll avoid that route.
Instead I’ll simply make the point that if we want to raise standards across the country and improve social mobility in some of the areas of the country where historically it’s been hard to do, a starting point would be to make sure that these areas are funded properly to do so.
In reality, the National Funding Formula in the context of a predicted decrease in real-term funding is only likely to mean that there are losers and big losers rather than winners. Whilst I’m hopeful that Northamptonshire schools will feel some actual increase in funding, I feel for those colleagues in authorities where there may be sizeable negative adjustments for them to make.
With cynical optimism…