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Funding Formula ‘favours smaller schools’

 
Created on 03/12/2019 @ 14:30
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The argument for radically changing the way education is provided in Powys has been backed up by the findings review of the schools funding formula.

Less than six months after being adopted, Powys County Council’s (PCC) new schools funding formula, hailed earlier this year as solving the problems of schools’ debt, is now only a stage on a journey to a better, fairer formula.

In September, the Formula Review Group (FRG) examined the formula again.

Their main conclusion was: “There is a bias in the formula towards small primary schools at the expense of secondary schools.”

These were discussed at the Learning and Skills Scrutiny Committee where Chair, or the FRG, Graham Taylor, who is the chair of Governors at Rhayader Primary School, said: “The issue about the smaller schools has been identified. It needs to be tackled but it can’t in the existing infrastructures and state of the education system.”

PCC education consultant, Geraint Rees, said: “It’s a significant step on the journey but it is not the final step. The needs of the primary sector in Powys are so great because of the sheer numbers of small schools.

“Overall the budget did move towards the primary sector, however no school is ‘quids in’ from the formula. It recognises their needs and gives them a budget to run it.

“What we need to do is go from the stable base we’ve got now to the next stage of development.”

Mr Rees added: “Where we need to be is that schools and budgets match themselves perfectly so that they are not thinking survival, but excellence.”

Cllr Sandra Davies said: “To me the funding formula is not equal if you have small schools with the 20 or 30 children receiving £6 or £7,000 plus each. Then you have large schools having a much reduced budget.”

Head of finance, Jane Thomas gave an example of how the figures are distorted: “If you take two schools. A class of 10 would need one teacher, and a class of 30 in the other school has one teacher. Both would have equal provision in terms of teaching.”

“But the cost of the teacher for 10 is much higher than one for class of 30 and that’s what the formula reflects in per pupil finding.”

She then added heating costs to her example and said that to heat 10 pupils in a school cost more than 30. It’s not as black and white as it appears,” said Ms Thomas.

Ms Thomas explained that the review was showing that schools with surplus spaces or an ageing building are costing more to run and “skews” the per-pupil funding figures.

“The most efficient schools, with appropriate year groups, easily managed in terms of classes, based on our model will have a lower funding per pupil, because it’s more economically viable,” added Ms Thomas.

By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

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