A row is brewing among Tory MPs over a new funding formula for schools, with some slamming it as “unfair” and “random”.
A redrafted spending plan, due to start in 2018, would see 10,000 schools gaining money and similar numbers losing, as cash is taken from schools in big cities in favour mostly of suburbs and shire counties.
Education Secretary Justine Greening has said the proposed scheme would resolve “unfair” and “inconsistent” differences in school funding between regions.
But Greening now faces opposition from Tory MPs disappointed by the deal, who are planning to rebel on the issue, according to a senior MP.
“Just before Christmas suddenly started to hit people what it meant for their constituencies”, they said. “It was not what they thought.”
“Most people thought it would come riding to their rescue.”
Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, said he was surprised to find rural schools in his constituency would lose out.
“More schools are worse off than better off. I’m still struggling with the overall objective of what this is seeking to achieve”, he said.
“I’m now going back to the Schools Minister to say: ‘I don’t get this and I don’t think it’s particularly fair’.”
MP for Altrincham and Sale West Graham Brady said the poorest schools in his constituency would be hit by the funding change.
“Every secondary school in Trafford will lose funding, even through it is one of the places famously underfunded for education”, he said.
“The whole point was to even out historical disparities.”
One MP said the new funding scheme “replaced one random system with another.”
“I’m not sure they really know what they’re doing. Someone has really muddled this up”, they said.
Another MP said the planned changes resulting from the new scheme had “caught me slightly on the hop”.
“It had been put about that this was a way to address the imbalance in rural constituencies”, they said.
“It was announced with great fanfare. I spoke to a number of colleagues who initially said it was great.
“I said go and look through your list of schools, and they said yeah you’re right, we’re down as well.”
In December East Devon MP Hugo Swire told the Exmouth Journal:
“I am disappointed that, under the Government’s initial proposals, some schools in East Devon would lose funding.
“This would clearly be entirely unacceptable and I will be raising this matter in Parliament.”
Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, has called the new funding scheme “shocking”.
“My headteachers are asking how Cheshire East has become the most poorly-funded area, after they made such a convincing case to the minister at their meeting. They thought they had been heard. I, too, find it difficult to understand”, she told MPs in December.
A Department of Education spokesperson said:
“The proposals we are currently consulting on will mean an end to the postcode lottery in school funding. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018 -19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode.
“Under the proposals small rural schools - which typically face higher costs as a result of their size and location - will gain on average 1.3 per cent. Small primary schools in sparse communities will see even larger gains of 5.3 per cent on average.”