Future of free schools and academies in England, House of Commons, 5 December 2018

We remain concerned that the introduction of the National Funding Formula, combined with changes to High Needs Funding, will exacerbate existing shortfalls in funding to support children and young people with SEND.


Key messages

  • All children deserve access to the best possible education. Data shows that council-maintained schools receive better Ofsted ratings, and improve more quickly, than academy schools. Analysis undertaken on behalf of the LGA found that ninety-one per cent of maintained schools are now rated as either good or outstanding.
  • The Government should take advantage of councils' position in the community in order to give them a clear and strategic role in school improvement and holding schools to account for education standards. Councils know their local schools best and are uniquely placed to offer up to date local knowledge. Local government must be empowered to help all schools improve where necessary, including academies and free schools. Councils should also have a clear role in decisions on the location of new academies and free schools.
  • Over recent years councils have created an extra 800,000 new school places This is a demonstrable record that shows they are doing everything they can to rise to the challenge of ensuring no child goes without a place. Councils and schools work extremely hard to try and ensure that as many pupils as possible are allocated their first preference.
  • We were pleased that the Government recognised LGA concerns and announced in July 2017 that an additional £1.3 billion would be allocated to schools during 2018-19 and 2019-20, meaning that no school would lose out under the new National Funding Formula. We also welcome the Chancellor’s commitment of £400 million for schools in England this year to spend on equipment and facilities, announced in the recent Budget.
  • While introduction of the National Funding Formula will see the budgets of 22,000 schools set in Whitehall, we are pleased that until 2020 at least, councils and schools will retain some flexibility to agree a slightly different allocation to reflect local needs and circumstances.
  • We remain concerned, however, that the introduction of the National Funding Formula, combined with changes to High Needs Funding, will exacerbate existing shortfalls in funding to support children and young people with SEND.
  • Councils are telling us that pressures on the High Needs funding block is one of the most serious financial challenges that they are currently dealing with. We have therefore commissioned research to look at the scale of the issue and the initial findings show that councils are facing a funding shortfall of £536 million for the 2018-19 financial year, nearly double the shortfall for 2017-18.

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Future of free schools and academies in England, House of Commons, 5 December 2018