F40 survey shows continuing support for ongoing campaign on fair funding for schools

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A survey organised by the f40 Group has concluded that the government’s plans for a new national funding formula (NFF) for English schools are welcomed as a step in the right direction but more work needs to be done to make funding fairer still.

Forty-one of the group’s 42 member authorities responded to the survey and they unanimously agreed that the formula being introduced in April 2018 does not yet fully meet f40’s aspirations and, in consequence, f40 will continue to campaign for improvements.

F40 has previously welcomed the Government’s commitment to a fair national funding formula and is pleased at the inclusion of an additional £1.3billion for school funding, but the survey demonstrates that some concerns remain and there is still more work to do to tackle remaining locked-in inequalities.

The chair of f40, Cllr Ivan Ould, who is lead member for children’s services in Leicestershire, said: “It is rare to get such a high level of response to any survey but the near 100% participation on this occasion illustrates that whilst additional funding is welcomed some concerns remain.

“Although the government has added more cash to the system, a gap between the better funded and worst funded remains. Specifically, maintaining protections to the best funded areas has meant that the historic inequalities will take far longer to iron out than f40 had called for.

“F40 continues to believe that a needs-led funding formula that reflects the true cost of running a school and an adjustment to the balance between funding blocks, with an enhancement of core funding and reduction to additional needs, are changes that are required.

“The survey makes clear that f40 members want to see the current NFF improved and f40 has resolved that the campaign for a third ‘F’ – Fair’ – will go on”. We will now develop a campaign to take further steps to finish the job of introducing a system that delivers the fairest possible funding for all children in all schools across the country.”

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Many LAs are aiming to move quickly to NFF, with around a quarter implementing gradually and some still consulting with their Schools Forum for a decision.
  • 34 LAs are very or extremely concerned about continuing school funding uncertainty, with the other 7 being only a little concerned.
  • All but one LA thought that f40 had provided a successful value for money campaign (It is understood that the “no” answer relates to the fact that f40 has been unable to deliver the specific formula it put forward to government, rather than the value of being part of the campaign).
  • 40 member authorities indicated that they want the campaign to continue. One respondent suggested the campaign might have gone as far as it can. One LA failed to complete the survey and is understood to believe that the campaign has run its course.
  • Respondents have identified the objectives and focus that f40 should now adopt and these are being considered as the basis for future campaigning.
  • The majority want f40 to remain LA focussed, a few would be happy to embrace academies as members – or perhaps as associate members – and others are opposed to their involvement. F40 will have to decide how to approach this matter.
  • All member authorities want the ongoing campaign to deal with School, High Needs and Early Years…and most would include Central Services Block.
  • Half of respondents indicated that they are prepared to strengthen f40 by providing a representative on the Executive Committee and most are prepared to provide financial expertise, as necessary.