“This is welcome news for Lincolnshire schools as we are one of the lowest-funded authorities in the country. We have been campaigning for a fairer funding allocation for some years because it can’t be right that authorities in other parts of the country get more money to pass on to schools due to historical allocations. This is long overdue and we will be making our strong views known in any consultation leading up to the changes. A fairer funding allocation is what our schools deserve.”
Those are not my words, but those of Councillor Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council. She is right: she knows that rural sparsely populated areas can be areas where deprivation, special needs, the challenges of students whose first language is not English, and a host of other issues are just as common as they are in cities. The Government’s proposed funding formula makes huge strides in righting that historic injustice and I welcome it.
The funding formula is in a consultation phase, so I hope that the Government will take the opportunity to make it even better. The Library tells me that 29 of my 39 schools for which they have data will see their funding rise by up to 2.9%. On current form, 10 will see a slight fall—for the same overall total, it would be perfectly possible to see no fall at all.
I would make two pleas to the Department, with one overarching theme: for the same amount of money, distributed fractionally differently, we could do even better. First, the Government are rightly committed to the expansion of grammar schools, which are engines for social mobility, with fine institutions in Boston and Skegness and, indeed, across Lincolnshire. In the fourth-lowest funded authority in the country, those schools were not over-funded in the past. A tweak to the formula could improve their situation markedly. Secondly, in many communities, small rural primary schools bind together friends and neighbours and keep villages sustainable, functioning units for community cohesion. If the formula is to have a sparsity factor, it is only right to acknowledge that a county such as Lincolnshire is about as sparse as they come. Again, for no overall increase, it could be done slightly better. One approach might be simply to give local authorities even greater powers to decide how spending might be allocated.
In conclusion, Lincolnshire is on record as welcoming a £5 million boost for schools across the county. That rights an historic wrong and will go a long way towards meeting genuine needs and ending the pretence that urban areas have a monopoly on deprivation. Lincolnshire further welcomes the consultation as a way of making sure that the extra money, which is very welcome, is spent even more effectively after these very promising proposals are implemented.