Essex Small Schools

Essex Schools Funding Formula Review

Archive for the month “September, 2014”

First 16/17 Funding Review Group: Outcome

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.

Deprivation Funding

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.

Lump Sum

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.

Pupil Mobility

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.


Election Called – Please Vote!

Today I heard from the LA that they are about to send out ballots to schools to vote for representatives on Essex Schools Forum, the influential statutory body that governs many aspects of schools – especially schools finance and SEN provision. I had put in a nomination for one of the three vacancies. Apparently 16 nominations have been received! This is great for school democracy in Essex. Each school has one vote, and I would ask you all to please consider casting your vote for me. I promise to remain a strong voice for Essex small schools, which I believe are totally unrepresented on Schools Forum. If you have not received a ballot paper shortly, please contact Mr Stupples-Whyley to request one! Thank you.

Funding Formula 16/17: First Meeting

After deciding last Summer that there was no time to review the 15/16 funding formula, the LA have drawn together the funding review group with a more leisurely timetable to review the 16/17 formula. This should be a valuable exercise, although no doubt much of it will happen “in the dark” without the necessary DfE parameters within which we can make our decisions before Summer 2015.

The first meeting of the group will take place this Wednesday. The items on the agenda include the membership and terms of reference (we have been expanded in membership by one to encompass the new scope of special school “top up funding”), a presentation by the LA on a comparative study of our funding factors with those in other LAs, and a discussion over which factors we would like to prioritise for discussion in the coming session(s).

The allowable factors in the funding formula are listed at the end of this post. Over the course of the next few months, we will have the opportunity to discuss all of these factors, and I would very much welcome input from readers of this blog – in comment or by email – if you have something particular to say about one or more of these factors. My initial thinking at this stage is also summarised below.

In addition to the funding factors, we have been asked to consider whether Essex should change the proportion of our funding from various factors that we designate as “notional SEN funding”. Having a larger notional SEN pot would not mean that schools had more funding for SEN, but rather that they were less well placed to secure further top up funding in the event that their notional SEN funding did not stretch to cover their contribution to high needs pupils. This is already a considerable problem for many small schools in Essex, and I am therefore not in favour of raising our notional SEN funding (which, at 3% of AWPU, is already quite high – Suffolk, for example have 0% of APWU). I also think it very odd that all our current deprivation funding is counted as part of our “notional SEN” pot; I have yet to see research that suggests a perfect – or even a very good – correlation between deprivation and SEN.

Finally, we have been asked to consider the “elephant in the room”, the primary : secondary funding ratio. Nationally, this stands at 1:1.27. In Essex it is 1:1.31, a considerable difference in proportionate terms, and the highest of all our “statistically neighbouring” authorities.

Lump Sum

This is the single most important factor affecting small schools in Essex. I will argue to keep this to at least its current value of £150k. As schools will remember, we campaigned through this blog and elsewhere for a fair settlement reflecting the true fixed costs of running a school, resulting in the figure of £150k which was fair at the time (inflation suggests it should be somewhat higher now). Since then, the DfE has provided the ability for LAs to distinguish between primary and secondaries in the setting of a lump sum; I will argue for a single lump sum for all.


Sparsity is relatively new; it was only an allowable factor from 15/16 (so no schools receive it yet). As a supporter of small schools, readers may think that I might be in favour. I am not. This is due to two issues: firstly, if schools are adequately provided for by lump sum funding, then this factor should be irrelevant. Secondly, I feel that the criteria to receive funding under this factor laid down by the DfE are poorly thought through. For each school, pupils who live nearest to that school are identified (not the pupils who go to that school); the distance of that pupil to their second nearest school is then identified, and the difference of the two distances is calculated. The mean of these distances over all such pupils is calculated, and if this final value is less than two miles, funding is attracted. I think this measure very oddly distorts the economics of rural schools. While I am not in favour of funding thresholds at the best of times, adding a sparsity factor per pupil with distance greater than two miles (rather than per school with an average greater than two miles) is defensible. But under the current regime, one can envisage a school in which half of pupils have the “difference of distance” metric of 3 miles, half of 1 mile, and this school would attract zero funding. In any case, as a practical observation, only 20 schools in Essex meet the criteria for funding. It seems to me a much fairer bet to focus on securing a good lump sum.


Essex currently funds deprivation 50/50 through IDACI and FSM. Many of our neighbours use primarily FSM, and there is some research to show that FSM correlates better with deprivation than IDACI. However, this research predates universal KS1 FSM, so I am of the view that we need to wait for the census data for this year and see whether there has been a statistically significant change in FSM registration rate amongst new KS1 pupils this year. If there has, I would suggest we avoid tinkering with this balance until the full impact of universal FSM on FSM registration is known.

Looked After Children

We do not currently include an LAC factor. I have not seen any research on this, nor have I heard any views from Essex schools over the importance of an LAC factor.

Low Cost High Incidence SEN

This is currently funded for primaries in proportion to the number of children who do not reach a good level of development at EYFS (and 78points+ under the old EYFS for the older year groups). I have not seen a reason to change this factor at the moment.

English as an Additional Language

EAL funding in Essex is currently comparable to other parts of the country for primary schools (though for some reason is considerably below elsewhere for secondaries).

Basic Pupil Entitlement (AWPU)

AWPU is calculated as “what is left” when the other factors are computed, so I will not comment further here.

Split Sites and Rates

I think everyone will generally be supportive of keeping these factors.


I expect this factor is likely to remain. If primaries with PFI (e.g. in the Tendring District) are reading this blog, they may wish to comment on the importance of PFI as a factor.

Pupil Mobility

Essex does not currently implement a pupil mobility factor. I would be interested to know whether there are readers in schools with high mobility but low FSM entitlement (as arguably those with high mobility and high FSM are already covered by an FSM factor). From these schools, it would be useful to gauge opinion on the extent to which the mobility affects resourcing requirements. Any solid research in this area would also be welcome, of course.

London Weighting

I expect this will continue as currently implemented.

Post 16

Essex does not have the ability to include a Post 16 factor under the legislation.


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