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Education in the media: 23 February 2017

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: numeracy, School spending

Today’s news review looks at mistaken claims on the Today Programme during a piece about school funding and plans for standardised multiplication tests in primary schools.

New funding formula

The Today Programme ran a piece on school funding this morning (23 February) based on claims made by a group of councils calling for more money.

Councils in the F40 group believe their schools are underfunded as they are largely affluent areas with low levels of deprivation, meaning their schools get less money per pupil than more deprived areas. They have argued that even the Government’s proposed new funding formula, which seeks to redress historic unfairness in the system by ensuring areas are funded according to the current needs of their population, does not go far enough. This is despite the fact that councils in the F40 group would collectively receive £210m more if the new formula was introduced today.

During the piece, both a presenter and an interviewee made incorrect or misleading claims. These are addressed below:

  • Presenter Sarah Montague said that school budgets will be further squeezed as pupil numbers increase.

This is misleading. Schools are funded on a per pupil basis meaning that as pupil numbers go up, so will schools’ budgets.

  • The head of Elton Primary CE School said that under the proposed new funding formula his school would have its budget cut by 15%.

If the new funding formula was introduced this year Elton Primary CE School’s funding would go down by 1.3%, or £3,000.

  • Presenter Sarah Montague mentioned that the headteacher of the Forest School in Wokingham is resigning because her school is having its funding cut.

Under the new funding formula the Forest School’s funding for this year would go up by 4.6%, or a total of £200,000.

  • The piece referenced teachers in South Gloucestershire saying they could have to cut the school day because of funding shortfalls.

Schools in South Gloucestershire would get 2.9% more funding if the new funding formula was introduced this year – a total of more than £4.2m.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17. But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. We are going to end the historic post code lottery in school funding and under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.


We are consulting on the factors that will make up the formula and we know that it is important that we get this 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.


Funding every child fairly and according to their needs is at the heart of delivering the government’s pledge to build a country that works for everyone. We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so‎ they get the best possible value.

Multiplication tables test

Primary schools have long tested pupils on their times tables as multiplication has been a part of the curriculum in Key Stages 1 and 2 for many years. In January 2016 we announced that we would be standardising times tables tests so that the data from them could be used to assess how schools are performing.

We also made clear that, in recognition of the pace of change in schools, no new tests would be introduced until 2018/19.

Yesterday, 22 February, during a hearing with the Education Select Committee, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the multiplication check is likely to be in place in 2018/19. This was reported widely including in the Telegraph and on the BBC’s website.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

We want every child to leave primary school having mastered the basics in English and maths - multiplication is a vital part of a child’s knowledge in order to help them to fulfill their potential.


We have already announced that the check will be rolled out to schools during the 18/19 academic year and will be consulting with the profession on how it should be implemented shortly, as part of a full consultation to secure a long term, settled system for primary assessment.

Share your views on our National Funding Formula consultation here. It runs until March 2017.

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