Bright future for A-level pupils, but let’s hope the same is true for our schools

(23 August, 2017)

School funding became a major issue during the general election, with heads and unions complaining of having to make cuts to staffing and subjects

11625Sacred Heart pupils celebrate their 2016 GCSE results

The future looks bright for the A-level students who last week received their results, with an impressive 98.7 per cent pass rate overall across the borough.

Many of the academies, schools and colleges have fairly new sixth forms, so the increased pass rate shows that the past investments made have paid off.

The backdrop to all of this is an unprecedented disquiet from our head teachers, who are predicted to be the worst hit by the Government’s national funding formula.

Eighty heads across the borough have written in protest to stop it from being implemented, with an estimated cut in Southwark of £1,024 per pupil per year.

Last month the education secretary Justine Greening responded to our heads and others across the country by announcing that the overall core schools budget would rise by £1.3 billion between 2017-18 and 2019-20. She said that all schools would receive at least an increase of 0.5 per cent in real cash terms. But the government’s plan to introduce the national funding formula, with the aim of ensuring money is distributed more fairly across the country, will go ahead from 2018/19. The details of the updated version of the formula, with budgets for individual schools, are due to be released for the autumn.

By spreading the formula across the country, those schools with the most disadvantaged pupils would be hit the hardest. Whether the revised formula will be enough to plug the estimated cuts in Southwark is yet to be seen.

School funding became a major issue during the general election, with heads and unions complaining of having to make cuts to staffing and subjects. They have pointed to evidence from the National Audit Office and the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which has warned of a £3 billion funding gap and schools facing an eight per cent real-terms budget cut.

But the protests from schools, union and parents does appear to have had some impact. Post the disastrous election results for the government, Greening’s announcement shows that the government finally appears to be listening.

However, many have pointed out that the £1.3 billion being put into school budgets over the next two years is not new money – it is being taken from other budgets, including spending on free schools, school improvement support and healthy pupils capital funding.

Greening has vowed that no school will lose out in cash terms from the revised funding formula when it is announced in the autumn. Ensuring that is true will be a test of all head teachers’ maths skills and it is important that the momentum that has made the government re-think continues.  There is a danger that we could all be caught up in a game of smoke and mirrors.

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