The Finance Review Group met on the 11th March for the next phase of the 16/17 Essex school formula review. The agenda consisted of three points: special schools, deprivation funding, and English as an additional language (EAL).
The major new item here was that at the group’s request, Mr Stupples-Whyley had found a variety of information about the very different way in which Kent funds its special schools, and we were asked to look at this paper. Essex funds its special schools by the category of need they were established for. Essex special schools are divided into CLiP, NMSS, Primary BESD Residential, and Secondary BESD Residential. The LA had collected the lowest and highest “top up” funding these schools receive per pupil over the nominal £10k place value. Kent funds school topup based on the identified category of need of each pupil, broken down into MLD/SLCN, BESD, SLD, PMLD, ASC, PMLD Residential, BESD Residential, and ASC Residential.
Apart from the structural difference in the way funding is allocated, there seem to be some remarkable differences in the level of funding. In particular:
- The LA reports that children with ASC in special schools will typically attend a CLiP in Essex, where the highest rate of topup funding is £2079 per pupil. Yet a pupil with ASC in a Kent special school will attract a minimum topup funding of £7492.
- Children with identified PMLD in Essex would appear in NMSS schools, where the highest rate of topup funding is £8095 per pupil. Yet the lowest rate of topup funding for a pupil with PMLD in Kent in a special school is £11984.
- Residential places in Essex seem to be funded at half (or less) the topup rate at which they are funded in Kent.
I find these statistics quite concerning. This tells me that either Essex seems to be significantly underfunding its special schools, or Kent sends only much more needy pupils to special schools than Essex. I have asked the LA to clarify this latter point. In the mean time, the group resolved to ask the special school representatives on Schools Forum for a needs costed approach, which could then be compared with both Essex and Kent’s funding model, and also to see whether it is Essex or Kent who is the outlier in funding of special schools.
Readers of this blog will remember that I have been concerned about moving primary deprivation funding from IDACI to FSM during the year in which universal KS1 FSM have been introduced, as this introduction could cause a significant shift in school data that has nothing to do with deprivation. I had asked the LA to produce figures for FSM takeup, to see whether the introduction of universal FSM has changed this: the short answer is that is hasn’t in any noticeable way. After a considerable discussion, the group agreed to make only one change this year: that IDACI funding weightings will be redistributed in the way I proposed in the past. I believe this is a principled change, based on the meaning of IDACI indices. In practice it will lead to a slight redistribution of income towards both the high and the low-but-nonzero deprivation indices, away from the over-concentration in mid deprivation we see in the current funding formula. But it will not have a big impact on any school.
English as an Additional Language
The DfE allows LAs to fund EAL for between zero and three years. Essex has funded EAL for two years for the last couple of financial years. It was initially felt that three years was too spread, and short, sharp interventions with new arrivals struggling with English were required. The group agreed to explore the further consolidation into a single year of funding (with no reduction in funding) for 16/17, so that more of an impact could be made with this funding. In addition, there has been a modest growth in the number of registered EAL children in Essex while the total EAL budget has remained constant, and the group asked the LA to model the impact of growing the EAL budget in line with this increase.