Future of free schools , House of Commons, 19 June 2019

LGA commissioned research found that councils are facing a high needs funding shortfall of £667 million in the 2019-20 financial year and this funding gap could rise to £1.6 billion by 2021.


Key messages

  • All children deserve access to the best possible education. Data shows that councils play a vital role in improving schools. Eighty nine per cent of maintained schools are now rated as either good or outstanding. Council-maintained schools receive better Ofsted ratings, than other types of schools, including free schools.
  • Councils should have the lead role in decisions on the location of new free schools. The ban on them opening new maintained schools should be ended and they should again be allowed to directly commission the building of new schools, including new council-maintained schools if that is what parents want.
  • 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.
  • Councils have created an extra 800,000 new school places since 2010. This is a good record that shows they are doing everything they can to rise to the challenge within the current financial constraints, ensuring no child goes without a place. Councils and schools work extremely hard to ensure that as many pupils as possible are allocated their first preference.
  • We were pleased the Government recognised LGA concerns and allocated an additional £1.3 billion to schools during 2018-19 and 2019-20. The Government’s commitment of £400 million capital funding for schools in England last year and the additional investment of £350 million across 2018/21 on high needs provision were welcome. Whilst individual amounts of additional school funding are welcome, the Government needs to replace the existing highly fragmented school capital funding system with a single local funding pot.
  • We remain concerned that the introduction of the National Funding Formula (NFF) which will see the budgets of 22,000 schools set in Whitehall, combined with changes to High Needs Funding, will exacerbate existing shortfalls in funding to support children and young people with SEND.
  • Councils continue to highlight pressures on the High Needs funding block as one of the most serious financial challenges they are facing. LGA commissioned research found that councils are facing a high needs funding shortfall of £667 million in the 2019-20 financial year and this funding gap could rise to £1.6 billion by 2021.

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Future of free schools , House of Commons, 19 June 2019