2019 Summer Term


  • Lead the debate
    We are the ones running schools and colleges, so we are the ones that should be doing the thinking about the future of education rather than leaving it to those who aren't directly guardians of young people. We need to come forward and lead the education debate, says Geoff Barton. More
  • Peace of mind
    Every day we hear how our mental health and wellbeing, and especially that of our children, is deteriorating. So, what can we do in our schools and colleges to help? And how should we be responding as leaders? Young people's mental health advocate Pat Sowa, a former school leader, shares top tips. More
  • Flying the flag for funding
    Funding Specialist Julia Harnden highlights ASCL's continuing work to keep the funding flag flying high while we await more details of the government's forthcoming spending review. More
  • No limits
    Stephen Gabriel had his sights set on headship from early in his career and puts tackling inequality for the poorest children at the heart of his vision as a leader. He talks to Julie Nightingale. More
  • No magic wand
    Schools and colleges are already doing as much as they possibly can to help combat knife crime, but without sufficient resources and the help of other public agencies, schools alone cannot and must not be expected to solve all of society's ills, says Headteacher Carolyn Roberts. More
  • The struggle for survival
    As an increasing number of colleges struggle for survival, Dr Anne Murdoch summarises the government's new support and intervention policy and argues that the focus must shift to funding colleges properly to prevent them getting into difficulties in the first place. More
Bookmark and Share

Funding Specialist Julia Harnden highlights ASCL’s continuing work to keep the funding flag flying high while we await more details of the government’s forthcoming spending review.

Flying the flag for funding

At our Annual Conference in March, Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds spoke to members and said, “I can reassure you that I have heard the message on funding loud and clear and before I go any further – I want to address this directly.

“I understand that there are real concerns on funding, that finances are challenging for schools and that many of you have had to make and are having to make very hard choices. I know that rising costs from suppliers to supply agencies add to these pressures, alongside the particular pressures in High Needs.

“On Wednesday the Chancellor announced the next spending review, which is when government sets out spending allocations for the year ahead. I will take that opportunity to make the strongest possible case for education.”

While we all remain on the edge of our seats waiting for details, ASCL continues to campaign relentlessly, building an evidence-based case that reflects the dire funding situation in different parts of the education sector. Here is a brief overview of some of the work we’ve been involved in and on what we know so far:

The True Cost of  Education

In March, we released our report on The True Cost of Education (www.ascl.org.uk/truecost) about what we think education in the 21st century costs and opening up the conversation about what we should expect from our education system. We used the government’s own methodology to calculate the shortfall in education funding and found that schools need an extra £5.7 billion to deliver basic expectation.

Although this report focused on primary and secondary schools, be assured that, to keep the pressure on the government, we will, through our own campaigning and by working alongside other organisations (including other trade unions, the #WorthLess? and #LoveOurColleges campaigns), continue to make the case that education, including post-16 and SEND, cannot be treated as the fourth emergency service and starved of the resources it needs.


In December, the Secretary of State announced that an additional £250 million would be made available for SEND over two years. Although this is welcome, it will not be enough to plug the widening gap between high needs funding and high needs spend. The Local Government Association (LGA) estimates that local transfers of almost £700 million have been made into the high needs block since 2015/16, meaning other local authority (LA) provision will have been left short, not least schools (https://tinyurl.com/y6h7cknk).

In a similar period, the number of children and young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) increased by about 35%. One reason for this will be the Children and Families Act 2014, which gives young people up to the age of 25 access to continued support. We celebrate the opportunities that this can deliver for our most vulnerable young people but funding must be available unambiguously, not as a trade-off.


The introduction of T levels will deliver an additional £500 million into the system by 2022/23. High-quality vocational courses are essential for Britain but they must be properly funded. Since 2011, funding per student has fallen by 16% and the learner rate has been frozen at £4,000 since 2013. It is extremely concerning that, according to the TES (https://tinyurl.com/y55le2vr), 47 school sixth forms have closed in the last few years and we know many more are consulting on closure. 

Research undertaken by the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association (SFCA) indicates that the learner rate should be £4,760 and ASCL supports this (see https://tinyurl.com/y34znxxp).

NFF: we’ve started, so let’s finish 

The National Funding Formula (NFF) is in its second year of implementation (2019/20) and now seems a sensible time to revisit what, at its launch in 2017, was heralded as a historic reform to education funding.

The DfE made it very clear from the outset that the new distribution methodology would be implemented gradually and would take the form of a ‘soft formula’ and a cap on gains. ASCL agreed a period of transition was reasonable. 

Over the first two years of its introduction, the DfE would calculate a budget for every school based on the NFF and use this figure to work out how much each LA would receive. Once the money landed with the LA it would be its responsibility to work with schools and the schools forum to determine a local formula. The local formula would be used to allocate revenue funding.

We now know the soft formula implementation has been extended by at least one year. This is because the move to a full hard formula (school budgets are allocated according to the NFF, with little or no local flexibility) requires a change in primary legislation. Quite frankly, while we are amid Brexit negotiations there is no legislative ‘space’ for such a change to take place.

One of the unintended consequences of the soft formula years is that some schools are unable to achieve the budgetary gains promised by the NFF. Local flexibility and increasing and necessary spend in other parts of the sector – SEND, for example – means a school whose gains are capped at 3% a year may not see that money in its bank account.

Anyone could be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that the NFF is not working. If you are one of those people, ASCL would advise taking a step back and reflecting on the following:

It took a long time to reach the convoluted and unacceptable variations in distribution that the NFF is attempting to address. It is not going to be a quick fix, but it is a step in the right direction.

While there is insufficient investment in the education sector, the principles of transparency and fairness will be masked by affordability. In other words, the NFF as a distribution methodology cannot address the paucity of money in the system.

We cannot afford to risk allowing the pursuit of a national, fair, funding formula for education to slip back into the ‘too difficult drawer’.

What next?

Following the very necessary decisions to fund the 2018 teachers’ pay award and increase in employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme for the remainder of this spending review period, we need to know what happens next. We understand that it’s hard to promise anything from a future spending review period, but with budgets on a knife-edge, this is the difference between solvency and going into the red. 

The sensible view must be that these grants will continue in some form or other, but leaders need more than hope that sense will prevail. 

Finally, we need some certainty injecting into the funding arena and reassurance that plans already started will continue. So, perhaps we need to take the Secretary of State at his word; after all, he did say he “heard the message on funding loud and clear”. 

More information:

Find out more on the links below and join us and  our partners in our quest for more funding: 

Julia Harnden
ASCL Funding Specialist