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Industry calls for pupil premium reform

ASCL asks government to introduce fairer funding for schools

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 19, 2015 | Law, finance, HR

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has called on the Government to “grasp the nettle” of fairer funding for schools.

The Conservative General Election Manifesto 2015 made a commitment to making school funding fairer. Education Select Committee chair Neil Carmichael MP has this week written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan urging proposals “at an early date”.

Under the current system, the best-funded areas receive about £3,000 more per pupil than the lowest-funded.

Malcolm Trobe, Deputy General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is essential that fairer funding proposals are brought forward as soon as possible. This issue has gone unresolved for too long and previous governments have failed to grasp the nettle.

“The complexity of introducing a fairer funding formula and the need to phase in the new arrangements mean it must be dealt with early in the parliament. The opportunity to resolve this issue must not be allowed to slip away once again.

“A new formula should establish a sufficient base level of funding per pupil, with additional funding to reflect disadvantage which incorporates the existing pupil premium.

“To be clear. We are not calling for the end to the pupil premium. Our approach is to have a single deprivation funding stream rather than the two that currently exist – one of which is the pupil premium – as this would lead to a fairer distribution of deprivation funding.

“It can still be called a pupil premium and can sit either inside the main grant or as a separate deprivation, or pupil premium, stream. It does however need to be included in the redistribution methodology otherwise some of the current inequities will continue.

“We welcome Mr Carmichael’s letter on fairer funding and his comments that funding for 16 to 18 year-olds should be included in the proposals for reform. The problem in sixth forms and colleges is not equitability of funding – the rate is uniform – but the fact that it is woefully inadequate.

“It is our strong contention that post-16 provision in schools and colleges is substantially at risk at the current level of funding. This issue must be urgently addressed.”

As well as post-16 provision, budget for SEN support is also under threat. Bath Spa University has found that the number of children registered as having special educational needs (SEN) is dropping sharply. This is due to changes to government policy and pressure on budgets, as extra support is needed for these pupils. 

Jolanta Lasota, Chief Executive of Ambitious about Autism, explains the need to focus on support rather than numbers: “The SEN reforms are about supporting young people with autism and other SEN being able to thrive and achieve at school - not about an arbitrary change in the way that we classify SEN. If pressure on budgets is driving schools to reduce the number of children they identify as having SEN that is deeply worrying. 

“We know that at least 1 in 100 children have autism and that many are currently not getting the support they need to succeed at school. Our Ruled Out report found that over half of parents of children with autism say they have kept their child out of school for fear that the school is unable to provide appropriate support. This points to an under – rather than over – identification of needs.

 “Identification of SEN should be based on an assessment of a child’s needs and nothing else. We mustn’t let the debate about numbers distract us from delivering the best possible additional educational support to the children that need it.” 

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