Minister refuses to rule out school cuts because of funding formula

27 Apr 18

The education minister has come under fire from both sides of the Commons for failing to confirm schools will not see cuts as a result of the new funding formula.

Damian Hinds was asked if he would resign over the matter and faced tough questions from his own backbench during an Opposition Day motion on Wednesday. 

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner, who led the motion on school funding, quizzed Hinds on the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge that “no school has its budget cut as a result of the new formula”.

The new formula is being introduced this financial year and will change the way the national schools budget is distributed across the country.

Rayner said: “We are not asking the secretary of state to match Labour’s commitment to increase per pupil funding each and every year to restore the funding lost since 2015. ​

“We are asking only that he is true to what he has promised in this House and ensures that not a single school faces a cash-terms cut next year.”

When Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield, asked: “If it turns out that a school has had a reduction in funding, will he consider it a resignation matter?”

Hinds avoided answering the question, saying: “I think the honorouble gentleman has been here from the beginning of the debate, so, unless he was reading something, he will have heard me set out how the national funding formula works.”

Conservative MP for Wokingham, John Redwood added pressure by pointing out that his constituency has some of the lowest per-pupil funding of anywhere in the country.

“We are now at a point where it is simply too little,” Redwood told the House. He asked: “Will he [Hinds] please have some urgency in getting us a bit closer to the average because we simply do not have enough?”

Hinds responded saying: “The national funding formula also allocates the biggest increases to schools that have ​historically been the most underfunded.”

He added: “The national funding formula allocates money in respect of every school.

“It then goes to the local authority, which has a certain amount of discretion to reallocate that money between different schools up to a certain limit to ensure that the funding goes to the places where it is most needed.”

The National Funding Formula, published in September 2017, aims to increase the amount of funding per pupil, set a minimum per pupil funding level and distribute funds according to individual schools’ needs.

Research economist Chris Belfield the Institute for Fiscal has calculated the formula could mean about 1,000 schools would face a 7% cut to their budgets in the next Parliament.

The Education Committee launched an inquiry earlier this month into education funding, and will examine the implementation of the funding formula.

It will also look at whether a longer-term plan is needed for investment in education and what resources are required to ensure schools and colleges get the support they need.

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