Local authorities in England and Wales must retain some flexibility in allocating funds to schools if children with special educational needs and disabilities are not to miss out, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
The association, which represents more than 370 councils, was responding to Government proposals for a new formula, which will decide the level of national funding each school receives. Local government leaders say they are supportive of the new formula but that setting 22,000 school budgets remotely from Whitehall will not work.
In the recent General Election the Conservative Party made a manifesto commitment that over the course of the new parliament no school would experience a budget cut as a result of the new funding formula.
A commitment to introduce fairer funding was also included in the Queen’s Speech but it did not give any detail about how much additional funding schools will receive or how the funding reforms will be implemented.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
Councils have long called for a fairer funding system for all schools to ensure that all children have equal opportunities. It is not right that pupils with similar needs could receive different funding depending on where they live.
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.
The national funding formula should not be delayed any longer as councils, schools and families need certainty. A three-year budget cycle will also allow schools to better plan for the future. The Government should make clear its intentions for school funding so that councils can get on with the job of providing a decent education for our children.
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