Counties warn that academy plans could hurt vulnerable pupils

25 Apr 16

Controversial plans to convert all schools in England to academies could hinder the ability of councils to support the most vulnerable children, ministers have been warned today.

The County Councils Network, which represents 27 county areas in England, said that academisation, alongside wide-ranging reforms to school funding, would remove local authorities from any decisions on how funding is allocated.

Responding to the government’s consultation on a new national funding formula for schools, CCN said that greater equity in funding from 2020 would be welcomed.

However, alongside moves to make the “vast majority” of schools part of multi-academy trusts by 2022, the changes could limit the ability of authorities to support schools in rural areas and help high-needs pupils. They could be hindered in responding to pressures over school places, the group warned.

CCN finance spokesman David Borrow said schools in county areas have delivered an excellent standard of education despite the historical underfunding. County schools currently receive 45% less funding per pupil than inner London, according to the CCN.

“We welcome the prospect of fairer funding for county schools. However, a one-size-fits-all national funding formulae and the continued push by government towards full academisation will remove any local discretion on how best to distribute funding to deliver the best outcomes for local children and counter any short-term difficulties faced by rural schools,” he added.

“The size and scale of county local authorities means that they are ideally positioned to take a strategic overview of pupils’ needs and cost pressures facing schools in their local areas. It is imperative that government recognise their vital role when making their final decision how best to distribute the proposed national school funding formula.”

Such a move would mean that the financial sustainability of small rural schools, which are currently ‘cross-subsidised’ by local authorities due to the higher costs of provision, could be put at risk, CCN warned.

To address this, ministers should abandon plans to pass funding directly onto to schools, instead allowing local authorities to work with their local schools forum to adjust the funding envelope to meet local circumstances.

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