The f40 group represents 41 English local authorities with historically low funding for education. We have been campaigning for a fairer system for the allocation of funding for schools for over two decades.
The Group has the support of MPs, councillors, education directors, governors, head teachers, parents and teaching union representatives. f40 currently has 41 member authorities representing over 2.83 million pupils (around 35% of the total in England) in 9,099 schools (41%).
Our primary objective has always been to influence a change in the way the government allocates funding to local education authorities and schools. So f40 welcomed the introduction of the new National Funding Formula (NFF) introduced from 2018-19 and commended the government for honouring its manifesto commitment to take steps towards providing fairer funding for all children in state funded schools in England.
However, f40 continues to have fundamental concerns about the new formula and there is unanimous recognition that there is still more work to do to tackle continuing unfairness of funding allocation and remaining locked-in inequalities.
The NFF is a step in the right direction, but it is based on historical averages rather than on the real cost of running schools and is, therefore, still unfair. As part of the NFF an extra £1.3bn has been made available, which is welcomed. However, there was insufficient narrowing of the differential funding gap.
In f40’s opinion, the NFF does not take sufficient account of the interaction between school funding and high needs funding – the 0.5% flexibility provided at present in 2018/19 and 2019/20 is only short-term and if the full “hard” NFF is implemented in 2020/21 as planned, this will provide significant challenges to many local authorities given the current pressures on the high need block and the under-funding position they are in. Each block should be funded sufficiently, thus removing any need to make transfers between them.
The inconsistencies in funding for individual schools with similar characteristics across the country remain too great as a result of the protection of schools that are better funded. We concede that an NFF, allocating the same funding for all mainstream pupils nationally, begins to resolve the problem of a child attracting very different levels of funding wherever they are being taught, but the implementation of the NFF has not yet achieved the desired outcome.
With the introduction of the NFF, f40 hoped that the case for fair funding for schools had been won. The government appeared to have agreed that the former system was unjustifiable and unfair, but regrettably it replaced one unfair system with another. Implementation of the NFF has more to do with stability and the protection of schools against loss, rather than creating a fairer funding system across all local authorities. We contend that an additional “F” is required to create a new NFFF – a National Fair Funding Formula.
Regretfully it is the case that f40 has fundamental concerns about the new formula and its membership has unanimously declared that there is still more work to do to tackle continuing unfairness of funding allocation and remaining locked-in inequalities.