anapoly perspectives

a research diary

Schools national funding formula

Documentation

The Department for Education has published a suite of documents about stage 2 of the national funding formula.

  • An executive summary outlines the proposals and the effect on schools, and the consultation document explains these in detail.
  • The effect on each school and area is shown in full in the impact tables.
  • There are technical notes to accompany these tables, including an Area Cost Adjustment annex which shows the ACA weightings.
  • Also there are illustrative allocations for new and growing schools.
  • The equalities impact assessment considers how the proposals relate to the 8 protected characteristics identified by the Equality Act 2010.

Current arrangement & purpose of change

The dedicated schools grant (DSG) provides the core budgets for all schools, early years provision and additional support for children and young people with high needs. It also covers some of local authorities’ continuing duties in education. It is currently allocated to local authorities from the Education Funding Agency of the Department for Education in three notional blocks: schools, high needs, and early years. In consultation with their schools forum, local authorities make decisions about the split in funding between the blocks, and the local formulae that determine the allocations for individual schools and early years providers. (Initial allocations of high needs funding to local authorities are the source of the majority of place funding for special schools and units, colleges and other post-16 providers, and of the top-up funding for children and young people with high-cost SEN and disabilities.) Local authorities also hold some DSG centrally to spend on schools and central services.

It is proposed to create a fourth block of the DSG, to fund those duties that local authorities carry out both for maintained schools and for academies, such as admissions and education welfare services. This new block – the central school services block – will be introduced from 2018-19.

The total funding will be distributed to the four blocks of the DSG using new formulae. These will result in changes to budgets and a redistribution of funding between local areas and institutions, but will not reduce the national total provided to schools and local authorities.

A school-level formula (a hard national funding formula) will be used from 2019-20, whereby each school’s budget will be set nationally. It will apply to the
funding for 5-16 year olds for all mainstream schools so that all schools will be funded through a single, national approach. This will remove the additional layer of variation and complexity created by the current existence of a different formula in every local authority.

Proposed arrangement

The dedicated schools grant will be divided into 4 blocks – for schools, high needs, early years and central school services.

  • The schools national funding formula will comprise 13 weighted factors including a mobility factor.
  • The high needs formula will comprise 9 weighted factors.

The pupil premium, pupil premium plus and service premium will continue to operate through the separate pupil premium grant. With the exception of an adjustment to the pupil premium plus, these grants are unaffected by the proposals. The early years pupil premium will be retained in its current form.

In 2018-19 the DfE will calculate notional budgets for schools according to the national formula. These will then be aggregated and allocated to local authorities as the schools block for distribution to schools according to the locally agreed formula.

From 2019-20 and beyond, local authorities will continue to have flexibility on some limited parts of the formula, particularly in relation to funding for pupil growth. They will continue to make decisions about how to spend their high needs, early years and central school services blocks. The difference under a hard formula is that there will be limited flexibility for local authorities in how they allocate the schools block funding. With the exception explained below, this will be ring-fenced and local authorities required to pass all of that block’s funding to schools and not to move it to other DSG blocks.

The exception seeks to address risks to support for pupils with SEN and disabilities. In 2018-19, local authorities will have a limited ability to move funding between the schools and high needs blocks, following local consultation and with the explicit agreement of the schools forum and a majority of their schools. As now, they will continue to be able to provide additional support – through their high needs block and outside the main school budget share – to schools supporting large numbers of pupils with high needs.

From 2019-20 it is intended for there to be some continuing local flexibility to take account of schools’ and local authorities’ collective responsibilities for children and young people with SEN and disabilities. The scope of this has yet to be decided.

How is the national curriculum designed to enable tracking in primary schools?

Every school needs an effective assessment system in order to evidence their assessment of pupils’ progress, to keep parents informed, to enable governors to make judgements about the school’s effectiveness, and to inform Ofsted inspections. The Department for Education suggests a set of core principles to underpin effective assessment systems within schools. The first of these calls for “meaningful tracking of pupils towards end of key stage expectations in the [national] curriculum ….”. How is the national curriculum designed to enable tracking in this way?

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Schools defined to be ‘coasting’

A technical guide for primary schools published in December 2016 defines the “coasting” progress threshold as below -2.5 in reading, -2.5 in mathematics or -3.5 in writing. Schools have to be below at least one of these thresholds and have fewer than 85% of children making the expected progress to meet the definition. To be defined as “coasting”, they have to meet the definition for three consecutive years. The Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) applies this criterion to school data once the key stage 2 results have been published and then takes follow-up action with schools identified as coasting.

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Michael Wilshaw: the characteristics of high performing MATs

In his latest commentary, Ofsted Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw reflects on the characteristics of high performing MATs. Using focused inspections of seven “stronger performers”, Sir Michael states that successful trusts tend to have the following as key characteristics:

  • ability to recruit and retain high quality executive leaders
  • a well-planned, broad and balanced curriculum
  • commitment to providing high quality education for all pupils
  • investment in professional development of teachers and sharing of expertise
  • high priority given to initial teacher training and leadership development
  • clear frameworks of governance, accountability and delegation
  • effective use of assessment information
  • and a cautious and considered approach to expansion

Source: NGA Newsletter 14/10/2016

Evidence for the benefits of formal school collaborations

Reference: ‘Forming or Joining a Group of Schools: staying in control of your school’s destiny‘. National Governors Association. September 2015

The words below are largely direct quotes from the reference.

The Education Select Committee undertook two, large-scale enquiries into school partnerships and structures in 2015. These form a significant body of evidence for the benefits of strong collaborations and shared accountability between schools. Here are findings from the first report, School Partnerships and Cooperation:

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Considerations when looking for MAT partners

Reference: ‘Forming or Joining a Group of Schools: staying in control of your school’s destiny‘. National Governors Association. September 2015

Vision and ethos. How successfully can the group of schools create a shared ethos?

School type. Only academies can form or join a MAT. Maintained schools wishing to form or join a MAT can convert to academy status and join the MAT at the same time.

Geographical proximity. There is no legal requirement for schools in a group to be in close geographical proximity and there are examples of successful MATs with schools many miles apart. Emerging evidence, however, suggests that the benefits of collaboration are much easier to realise when schools are physically close (Lord Nash, minister with responsibility for academies, suggested that groups should ideally consist of schools between which staff could travel in ‘half a lunch break’). MATs in which schools are geographically dispersed usually seek to introduce a tier of regional governance and oversight, through a regional executive role on the trust board and/or regional committees.

Phase. Groups can be primary-only, secondary-only or cross-phase and can include special schools. There is some evidence that cross-phase groups are more likely to be successful, although this is not universal.

Religious character. Schools with a designated religious character have some restrictions placed on them by their religious authority.