Funding shake-up to 'hit smaller schools'
STAFFORDSHIRE has been picked as a national case study so the Government can track how its reforms to school funding are affecting children's education.
The move comes after Staffordshire County Council and MPs recently met with schools minister David Laws to outline their concerns.
They fear plans to simplify funding allocations from April could create problems, with some schools gaining money at the expense of others.
Among those who stood to be worst hit were small schools and middle schools, who relied on extra 'lump sums' to cover their higher running costs.
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Now the Government has promised to review the changes over the coming year and it will be using Staffordshire's experience to help shape its findings.
The developments were discussed by the council's cabinet yesterday, when councillors also agreed to set the budget formula for schools for 2013/14.
Councillor Ian Parry, pictured below, cabinet member for education, finance and transformation, said: "It's a complex picture, there is still more work to do, and there is an awful long way to go to make sure the Government listens."
But he stressed no school would lose more than 1.5 per cent of its budget next year as there would be national transition arrangements.
From April, local authorities will see the number of factors they can take into account when allocating money to schools dramatically scaled back. It means all schools will receive a single lump sum in future, regardless of their size or individual needs, alongside their normal funding per pupil.
In Staffordshire, this sum has now been set at £110,000, which officials hope will help protect the future viability of very small schools.
Staffordshire has looked at whether to transfer some funding from secondary schools to primary schools as part of wider budget changes.
At the moment, primary schools receive an average of £2,683 per pupil, while secondary schools receive £3,635 for a key stage three pupil and £4,508 for a GCSE age pupil.
But a decision has been delayed for a year after high schools raised concerns about the impact on their budgets.
Executive headteacher Jared Eccles believes the funding pressures will mean more schools look at federating in future to help save money.
He is in charge of a collaboration between three schools – St Werburgh's CE Primary, in Kingsley, Dilhorne Primary, and Valley Primary, in Oakamoor – which between them educate 200 pupils.
Mr Eccles said: "All our three schools are financially viable. With £110,000 as a lump sum, we would not face significant cuts. But it is challenging."
The funding issue will have less impact in Stoke-on-Trent because schools are of a similar size and in built-up areas.