Future of funding for County Durham’s schools up for dicussion

Councillors are considering the funding available for County Durham’s schools as they decide how the government’s new national funding formula will be implemented.

Following consultation, Durham County Council’s Cabinet is being asked next week to consider the options for implementing the national funding formula for schools in the county, as part of the government’s planned roll out of a national approach to determining school funding.

Cabinet is being recommended to continue to transition to the new formula – with full implementation from 2021/22 when it meets on Wednesday, 12 December.

Councillors will hear of a significant shortfall in government funding for pupils’ with special educational needs at a time when demand for special needs provision has increased massively, resulting in a projected deficit in 2019/20 of over £5 million in high needs funding.

After listening to schools and the significant pressure they are under, proposals are being considered to meet the shortfall, on a one-off basis, from the council’s own reserves for 2019/20, together with an application to the Secretary of State for Education for a 0.5 per cent top-slice from general schools funding.

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “Our schools and the local authority really are between a rock and a hard place. We have a government that is taking away our ability to meet local needs by forcing us to move to a national funding formula whilst at the same time starving our schools of the funding they need.

“If our schools had received increases in funding in line with inflation, they would have received over £40 million more funding than they have at present. Just imagine what could have been done with those much needed resources.

“The position with the high needs budget is simply not sustainable and has to be addressed by government. I have written to the minister to raise the issue and can only hope they do the right thing and provide much needed funding to support pupils with special educational needs.

“We absolutely understand the pressure our schools are under which is why we have agreed to use some of the council’s reserves in 2019/20 on a one-off basis to lessen the impact on them whilst we consider our options going forward.”

Cllr Alan Napier, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for finance, said: “Funding for our schools continues to be cut in real terms by this government. The pressures in high needs are huge and are being experienced by local authorities up and down the country.

“Government must recognise that if they do not provide more high needs funding we are simply storing up problems for the future which will cost more to resolve in the long run. Using council reserves to fund education spending is not a sustainable position and whilst we are looking to agree this one off support for 2019/20, we need a longer term solution from government.”

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