Today’s news review looks at coverage of UCAS figures on university applications and misleading coverage of school funding in West Sussex.
UCAS has published statistics on university applications for the 2016-17 cycle. The figures show that the number of 18-year-olds applying for university is at a record high.
In England, the proportion of 18-year-olds in the population who apply to university has risen to a record 37 per cent while the application rate of young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds has increased to 22.5 per cent for the England, the highest level recorded.
The story has been covered widely in print and online by outlets including the BBC, the Guardian and I News. Most of the coverage focuses on a decline in the number of applications to nursing courses and from EU students.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:
More young people than ever are choosing to go to university with record application rates for 18-year-olds this year as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The reforms we are bringing in through the Higher Education and Research Bill will mean people choosing to go to university in the future will benefit from more choice, and universities will have a duty to do more to promote equal opportunities.
This Government is committed to supporting all young people to reach their full potential – whether that is going to university, starting an apprenticeship or taking up a technical qualification.
West Sussex school funding
This week, headteachers from West Sussex held a meeting with MPs including School Standards Minister Nick Gibb to discuss their concerns over our proposals for fairer funding for schools.
Under our proposals for a new funding formula, which would eradicate unfairness in the system and ensure the money in the system is distributed to reflect the needs of pupils in each school, West Sussex schools would get a 3.5 per cent funding uplift.
Our proposals will see money distributed to according to a range of factors including levels of deprivation, the numbers of children from families that do not speak English as a first language, and much more. This is as opposed to the current system that is opaque, out-of-date and leads to some areas being funded significantly differently to other areas with very similar demographics.
We are determined to end this unfairness by ensuring that the money in the system is redistributed. This means while a majority of areas will see funding levels increase, there will be some areas that get less money per pupil as a result – although West Sussex is not one of these areas.
The Brighton Argus covered the meeting between the headteachers and Minsister Gibb, focusing on calls by the headteachers for more funding.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Over the last six years we have seen the number of children being taught in schools that are rated good or outstanding rise by more than 1.8 million. School funding is at its highest level on record, at more than £40 billion in 2016-17. We are protecting per pupil funding so where pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will increase.
The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, but the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode. Under our proposals, West Sussex would see an overall uplift in funding for schools of 3.5 per cent.
We are consulting on how we propose to weight funding and we know that it is important that we get the formulae and system right so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact. The consultation will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.