Late last night, members of the SGRG received an email from Tim Coulson, Essex’s Director of Education and Learning. In it, he proposes to modify the funding proposals for low-cost high-incidence SEN, suggesting the removal of all funding based on the “prior attainment indicator” of EYFS results, and instead putting all existing AEN funding into deprivation. His motivation – not unreasonable in the abstract – is that schools would otherwise have a perverse incentive to keep EYFS results down in order to get more funding. Along with other members of the SGRG, I have expressed my reservations about this proposal (see below).
Like Richard Thomas, I have some sympathy with the motivation for your proposal. However, I very strongly disagree with the proposed solution, for a number of reasons, some of which echo Jeff’s perspective:
- We must not forget that low-cost high-incidence SEN funding is made from three elements, not only two: a proportion of per pupil funding, deprivation funding, and prior attainment. If the motivation for the proposed change to the consultation is that – in practice – EYFS attainment is (or will become, due to perverse incentives) a poor proxy measure for SEN, then it appears that the appropriate solution would be to add this funding to the per-pupil funding, not to simply double the amount funded through deprivation indices. Thus it would go to all schools, whether in deprived areas or not: this is the natural solution if the belief is that this is a poor proxy measure – essentially removing it as a separately funded element. Increasing the weight of other proxy measures – in contrast – is not a reasonable response.
- The net result of the proposal to distribute all existing AEN funding though deprivation would be a severe underfunding of low cost high incidence SEN in areas of low deprivation. Such a move should only be taken if there is concrete evidence that there is a very strong correlation between low cost high-incidence SEN and IDACI index. I have not seen that data, and the limited data I have seen on results (see, for example, http://www.significancemagazine.org/details/webexclusive/1311633/School-funding-and-deprivation.html) indicate that this is unlikely to be the case. In practice, I believe we will be severely short-changing those youngsters with genuine SEN who happen to live in relatively affluent areas of Essex.
- The perverse incentive you highlight – keep EYFS data down and you get more funding – already exists in Essex’s current AEN formula (which is based on EYFS results for KS1 pupils and KS1 results for KS2 pupils). However, the counterweights against such an incentive are the incentives EYFS practitioners have to show the children in their class are making good or outstanding progress, the moderation process and the inspection processes. Is there evidence to suggest that schools already artificially keep their EYFS scores low? If not, what mechanism do you expect to be present after the 2013/14 change that is not already present? If nationally the DfE intents to cohere on EYFS indicators then perhaps more emphasis will need to be put to ensure robust moderation of EYFS data in time – this will be a national issue which would need a national solution.
- The general principle adopted by the SGRG given the timeframe – stated explicitly at the beginning of the draft consultation document – is to make minimal changes to the existing funding of schools. The existing scheme for primaries is 50% of AEN comes from IDACI and 50% from EYFS+KS1. Changing this to 50% IDACI and 50% EYFS (end) seems justifiable from the general principle followed. Changing it to 100% IDACI does not. As I stated at the SGRG meetings, I am not at all confident that the 3% AWPU + 50% of AEN through EYFS + 50% of AEN through IDACI is the best split: an evidence-based approach that looks at the correlation of these EYFS results, IDACI, and FSM with either KS1 and KS2 results and/or current ESA/ESA+ designations and funds as a function of the correlation seems more appropriate. However, such a study was not possible within the timeframe allowed. Nevertheless, it should be considered in future years.
I hope this is helpful.