Schools face alarming black hole in budgets

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Pupils in Boston could be losing out as schools across Lincolnshire face an ‘alarming black hole’ in their budgets, says a head teacher.

A report from the Association of School and College Leaders on Monday revealed in Lincolnshire the funding per pupil for 2015-16 stands at £4,379; this is £1,918 less than the top 10 average, and £353.36 less than the national average of £4,732.36.

It places Lincolnshire as the 40th worst-funded authority out of 151 nationally.

This is despite an extra £390 million being poured into the schools budget from the Government for 2015-16 to increase the per-pupil budgets of those the government described as the 69 ‘least fairly funded areas’.

This means Lincolnshire will get an extra £4.5 million

The executive head teacher of the Boston Witham Academies Federation, which includes Haven High, Carlton Road and Staniland Academies, said Lincolnshire was one of the ‘worst funded shires’.

He said that the amount of funding from central government to Lincolnshire had been ‘traditionally low’, something which he believed was ‘entrenched in funding moving forward’.

He said: “If we had a level playing field it might be schools in Lincolnshire would not have the alarming black hole that many schools face in their budgets. We are having to plan very, very carefully to protect staff and provision across the federation to ensure that pupils are making progress across the curriculum and are not put at risk.”

A spokesman for Lincolnshire County Council said the authority has lobbied, and would continue to do so, for a fairer funding system and had this year joined the F40 group which represents the 40 lowest funded local authorities.

They said that any system would need to take into account differing circumstances, which would mean any new formula would still be complex.

They said the additional £4.5 million will only ‘marginally reduce’ the difference.

Director of services at the council Debbie Barnes said Boston schools are not that different to those in the rest of the county, except that some tend to have higher numbers of pupils with English as an additional language. She described the support for this as ‘modest overall’.

She said: “The impact for any school in the county can probably be described as about £300 (primary schools) to £400 (secondary schools) less in funding per pupil than even what the Government believes they should be.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the Government had protected the schools budget - meaning all authorities are receiving the same basic amount per pupil as in 2010.

They said it had committed to introducing a national funding formula after the next spending review and said the extra money for the 69 lowest funded school authorities in 2015-16 was the ‘biggest step’ towards fairer funding in a decade.

They added: “In addition, the Pupil Premium now worth £2.5 billion this year to schools, is ensuring teachers continue to have the resources they need to give all pupils the best possible start at school, regardless of their background.”