William Eichler 29 June 2017

Councils best placed to set school budgets, council chiefs tell Whitehall

Council chiefs have called on the Government to allow local authorities and schools to retain an element of flexibility over how schools funding is distributed locally.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says local authority leaders are supportive of the national funding formula but insisted Whitehall was incapable of setting 22,000 school budgets from the capital.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto stated no school would be worse off as a result of the national funding formula, and in the Queen’s Speech there was reassurance for a fair funding arrangement for all schools.

However, the LGA have raised concerns that a ‘strict application’ of the national formula would see councils lose their ability to work with head teachers, governors and schools forums to determine need in their local areas.

They also said councils were worried about the proposed changes to high needs funding, which will reduce council and school flexibility to make additional funding available where there are rising demand pressures for special educational needs and disability (SEND) support.

The association also called for three-year school budgets as opposed to annual, in order to help them better plan for spending pressures.

‘Currently, there is a real fear amongst councils that a strict national funding formula will not reflect local need and that children could potentially miss out on receiving the education they deserve.

‘This is particularly concerning for those with special educational needs and disability support as councils will no longer be able to make additional funding available under current plans.

‘The setting of school budgets works best when done at a local level, with councils working with head teachers, governors and schools forums to determine need and priorities.

‘The Government should allow councils to have some flexibility over how the national formula is implemented locally to ensure the widest possible success and acceptance.’

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