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Education Secretary Justine Greening MP
Education Secretary Justine Greening MP

May finds new magic money trick for school funding

THERESA MAY has come up with a new trick to try to cover up the Government’s lack of concern for state funded schools. Unfortunately for the Tories, the trick is so transparent that no one is going to be impressed – especially not the schools which are trying to manage on dwindling resources.

At the end of last year, the then Government announced that it was changing the National Funding Formula (NFF) which was used to determine how funding is distributed to schools in England and Wales. The change meant that the Government would take less account of factors which determine educational achievement – such as poverty in pupils’ families. Instead, funding would be distributed more evenly per head, with the sums going to inner city schools in deprived areas being reduced in order to give more money to schools in wealthier areas. The Government saw this as a move towards greater equality.

That was never a very popular policy – even Tower Hamlets Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick, who has managed to sit quietly through a number of public sector cuts under the Tories, got himself out to a public meeting and pledged to join the community in campaigning against the education funding cuts. Since the new policy was announced there has been a General Election which saw the Tories losing seats.

Education Secretary Justine Greening MP has been looking for a way to soften the impact of the unpopular policy – and today she has revealed what it is. She will take some money from elsewhere in the Education budget and add it to the money spent directly on schools. It is not new money. It is money which would have been spent on education anyway. But it is being spent slightly differently. Dah dah! Magic Education Secretary taps top hat with her magic wand, produces the rabbit and takes her bow… as her audience surveys the goings on with extreme indifference.

Some of the money now heading for schools will be cut from the funding set aside for free schools, an experiment that has been less popular than originally hoped and which has failed to deliver widespread joy as parents realise how much work it is. Another chunk is being sliced out of the “healthy pupils” budget – which can presumably done if the Government persists with its plans to provide breakfasts on the cheap rather than lunches.

Greening tried well to sell the package. She told MPs she was responding to widespread public concern over the money being allocated to schools (a decision she  had taken six months ago). She told them this recycled money was a “significant investment” in the drive to “raise standards, promote social mobility and to give every child the best possible education” – which was just what it was doing when it was old money in the first place.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies was quick off the mark to point out that even with the extra recycled money, school budgets will see school budgets at a standstill for the next two years and declining by nearly 5% between 2015 and 2020. Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner criticised the Government for refusing to provide extra money and for not coming clean over what education spending would be cut to provide the re-directed money.

Some individual parents and headteachers welcomed the move, but teaching unions were largely cautious – joining the call for clarity over where the recycled money was coming from. The NUT and ATL issued a joint statement saying that the recycled funding would still leave schools having to make huge cuts.

Grassroots education campaigns will continue to press for more genuine funding to be channelled into education. The campaign Fair Funding for All Schools retweeted a tweet from Vic Goddard which said simply, “Looking fwd to telling our board that 3% of our 8% funding cuts have now been taken away. What to do about the other 5%?”  Ms Greening is unlikely to have a peaceful summer.

For more information about the parent-led campaign against School Funding cuts, go to:
http://www.fairfundingforallschools.org/

•Read more about it:
Now schools in cuts firing line
Jim pledges support for anti-education cuts campaign

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