Today was the first meeting of the 16/17 funding review group. There were five apologies, with three members in attendance: myself, the Chair Jeff Fair, and Richard Thomas, the Executive Director of ASHE.
The group has expanded to include an additional representative from a secondary, to balance primary and secondary representation, and a representative from a special school.
It was agreed that, as we have a longer timescale to consider changes this year, the LA would additionally use EPHA and ASHE meetings for consultation purposes and feed back to the group.
The meeting then went through the various funding factors one by one, as described below. The next meeting of the group is on the 15th October (agenda to be announced) and I would welcome feedback before then.
It was agreed to ask the LA to present comparative figures of total funding per pupil across LAs rather than AWPU per pupil, as different LAs put different amounts of money into each figure.
I asked the LA to present data after this year’s census to show the FSM registration rate in Reception compared to that of previous years. The idea is to check whether universal free school meals has had an impact here before considering further the IDACI/FSM split in the primary sector. Richard Thomas asked for the LA to model the impact on schools of putting all deprivation funding through Ever6.
There was some discussion about whether the increasing growth in Pupil Premium should result in a reduction in deprivation funding. I remember reading some research from several years ago suggesting that a £2k premium largely offsets educational disadvantage due to deprivation. We asked the LA to review the evidence in this regard.
I queried the figures that have been used for IDACI funding to date. The DfE mandates IDACI funding by “band:, with Band 1 corresponding to IDACI scores between 0.20 and 0.25, Band 2 between 0.25 and 0.30, etc, up to Band 6. It is, however, up to LAs to determine how much funding per pupil is provided for each band. Essex ratios between funding provided per band are currently 1 : 2 : 2 : 3 : 3 : 3. My understanding of IDACI score is that it is a probability that a child living in a certain postcode is likely to come from a deprived household. It therefore seems odd to have constant weighting over bands. In order to secure an average equal funding for deprived pupils, it seems a more appropriate methodology to make the ratios commensurate with the probabilities. Taking the midpoint of each range would lead to a ratio of 1 : 1.2 : 1.6 : 2.0 : 2.4 : 3.6. I am not sure how much practical impact this would make (likely a slight skewing towards schools in more deprived areas) but the LA will model this so the group can see the impact on schools.
Looked After Children
Essex does not currently include an LAC factor in the funding formula. It was resolved to ask the County’s LAC team to identify and cost the administrative burden associated with LAC (rather than the educational requirements, which are to be funded under Pupil Premium) in order for the group to consider this further.
Low Cost High Incidence SEN
It was resolved to stick with 78 points on the old EYFS as the measure triggering LCHISEN for existing primary children.
The discrepancy between the amount the LA currently funds per primary pupil with low prior attainment (£610) and per secondary pupil with low higher attainment (£915) came up for debate. No clear reason for this difference was offered, so the suggestion is that the LA model the implications of moving to a single LCHISEN funding rate. However, we did not resolve how this would work in practice. In particular, the proportion of children reaching GLD in the new EYFS is likely to be lower than the proportion reaching “secondary ready” in Y6. So this will need to be carefully unpicked at future meetings.
The Chair asked what the implication would be if the LA decided to remove all funding for LCHISEN and put the same funds into deprivation funding instead. I argued strongly against this idea. For me prior attainment is a metric that – no matter how imperfect – is likely to be correlated with SEN, as witnessed by the national RAISEOnline data to this effect. I have seen no study that suggests that deprivation is a better indicator for SEN than prior attainment, and I doubt it is. Moreover, if one doubted the efficacy of prior attainment as an indicator for SEN then the implication would be that the funding should go into AWPU, not into deprivation.
English as an Additional Language
There appears to be a wide variety in the funding provided for EAL between different LAs. At one extreme, Warwickshire does not provide funding for EAL. At the other, Kent provides £3k per pupil with EAL per year for three years! We resolved to ask the LA to liaise with other LAs to determine the methodology they had used to decide upon these figures.
We were asked whether we would consider setting a different lump sum value for primaries and secondaries. I argued that there was no reason to do so. Richard Thomas suggested modelling the implications if the secondary lump sum were abolished. I argued that the fundamental principle we should follow when setting lump sum is that the disposable income per pupil from the combined lump sum + AWPU should be comparable between schools. The only way to achieve this is to ensure that lump sum is a true reflection of school fixed costs. There was some sympathy with this view, but I expect this issue to arise throughout the review process.
The LA doesn’t currently include a factor for pupil mobility. (This is specifically to address the low attainment in pupils subjected to movement of schools, not to address changes in size of schools.) If we had such a factor, 116 primaries and 7 secondaries would receive this funding. I asked the LA to present attainment data for these schools to demonstrate that there was a statistically significant difference between these schools and others in the County before we consider this factor further.
The Chair suggested that we should consider this factor, as it may allow changes to lump sum if included. I argued against, for reasons expressed previously on this blog, arguing conversely that a properly funded lump sum avoids the need to consider this factor. The LA was asked to “explore” the implications of using this factor, but I am unconvinced what data could be provided to support its use, as no schools currently receive this factor and outcomes from those LAs using the factor are many years off.
Primary : Secondary Funding Ratio
At 1 : 1.31, the least favourable to primaries amongst our statistical neighbours, and well below the national average of 1 : 1.27, there was universal agreement that the LA needs to consider this ratio. However, it is not clear what evidence any change would be based upon. We asked the LA to undertake a literature review, identifying which LAs or research studies have specifically looked at the overall relative costs of primary versus secondary education.
Notional SEN Funding
We asked the LA to present figures on the notional SEN funding as a proportion of total school funding across LAs, so that Essex can benchmark its approach to notional SEN.