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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Education in the media: 15 September 2017

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Exams and qualifications, Primary Schools, School spending

Today’s news review looks at primary assessment and the national funding formula.

National funding formula

Yesterday, Thursday 14 September, the Secretary of State announced the details of the national funding formula. This is a new fairer funding system for schools in England, putting an end to the historic postcode lottery that saw huge differences in funding between similar schools in different parts of the country. This announcement was covered widely in regional media, nationally the I newspaper led on the story, with other nationals reporting on the formula in broader education pieces.

In response to this announcement, there have been some misleading and incorrect statements reported in the media.

The first criticism levelled at the DfE is that historic funding has not been addressed. In fact, as the Education Secretary said yesterday, with the additional £1.3 billion we are investing, the formula provides for a cash increase of at least 1 per cent per pupil by 2019/20 for every school, compared to its baseline. No school will lose funding, and under-funded schools will see significant gains of up to 3 per cent per pupil in 2018-19 and a further 3 per cent per pupil in 2019-20. Under the formula all secondary schools will attract at least £4,800 per pupil, with all primaries set to attract at least £3,500 per pupil.

The Secretary of State has been accused of making no long-term funding commitment for schools. The fact is, the additional £1.3 billion in school funding announced in July means we can protect schools funding in real terms per pupil for the remainder of this Spending Review period. This means we will be spending £2.6 billion more on schools by 2019-20 than we are today.  Spending plans beyond 2019-20 will be set in a future Spending Review. Naturally, we cannot pre-empt the decisions that will be taken in future Spending Reviews.

The department has also been accused of not fairly funding high needs, early years and post-16 education. This is simply not true. We have announced major reforms to high needs funding, alongside those for schools. The high needs budget is being protected in real terms per pupil for the next two years, and all local authorities will see a minimum 1 per cent increase per head by 2019-20. When it comes to early years, this government is investing a record £6 billion every year by 2020 in childcare – more than ever before, while our investment in apprenticeships will double, with funding reaching £2.5 billion by 2019-20, and our new T levels are backed by over £500 million a year once up and running.

The need for reform to school funding has been widely recognised, because of the manifest unfairness in the current system. We are determined to create a country that works for everyone and we are delivering on our promise to reform the unfair, opaque and outdated school and high needs funding systems and introduce the national funding formula.

We have received several positive responses from key leaders and spokespeoples to the national funding formula announcement:

Mark Lehain from Parents and Teachers for Excellence said:

Fairer funding will allow easier comparisons between schools, local authorities and multi-academy trusts I can’t stress enough how important this will be. I know that it won’t be completely comparable, as no schools will be losing money, but it will definitely be significantly better than before.

Paul Whiteman from the National Association of Head Teachers added:

This new formula will ensure a consistent approach to funding schools based on the needs of their pupils and we support the range of factors being used to determine each school’s allocation.


Richard Watts, chairman of the Local Government Association's children and young people board:

Councils have been concerned for some time about the growing funding pressures facing support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It is therefore right that the Government has allowed councils to retain the ability to make additional funding available, with the agreement of schools, to meet the rising demand and pressures for SEND support.


Stephen Morales, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of School Business Management (NASBM):

NASBM welcomes both the additional funding secured by the Secretary of State and her continued commitment to the national funding formula.  Campaigning for equitable funding has been a long and hard fought battle. This announcement represents a once in a generation opportunity. We must continue to move towards a funding system that ensures all schools are adequately resourced and able to deliver high quality education provision.

FASNA Chief Executive, Tom Clark:

The current arrangements to distribute funding to schools have been publicly acknowledged to be indefensible by all the main political parties. FASNA welcomes this long overdue move to deliver a fairer way of funding schools and looks forward to the full application of the formula as soon as possible. FASNA also welcomes the uplift in funding such that all schools will stand to gain something from the formula proposals.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

Standards are rising across our school system and a fairer funding formula will ensure we can build on that success. It will replace the outdated funding system which saw our children have very different amounts invested in their education purely because of where they were growing up. That was unacceptable and we have now made school funding fairer between schools for the first time in decades.

It’s a long overdue reform and our £1.3 billion extra funding means every school can gain.

Primary assessment

On Thursday 14 September we responded to the primary assessment consultation, announcing that key stage 1 tests and assessments will become non-statutory from 2023. We have also removed the requirement for schools to submit teacher assessment data for reading and maths at the end of key stage 2. We announced a new teacher-mediated assessment in the reception year from 2020 to provide a baseline measure in order to better track pupil’s progress as well as, from 2019/20, a multiplication tables check to aid children’s fluency in mathematics.

This announcement was covered by the Times (p4), Guardian (p7), Mail (p19), I (p10), FT (p2) and in the Sun (p2).

The primary assessment and Rochford Review consultations, which ran between March and June, have enabled us to hear the views of thousands of people and organisations passionate about improving primary education in our country. The improvements to statutory assessment, set out in our responses to these consultations, will allow us to establish a sustainable long-term system that enables us to hold schools to account, and measures pupils’ progress more fairly.

This announcement has been well received within the sector. Some of the positive comments from key leaders and spokespeople welcoming the announcement include:

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers:

The decision to make SATs for seven year olds non statutory in favour of a new reception baseline assessment may well be met with trepidation by some, but it is absolutely the right thing to do…If designed properly, these new assessments can provide useful information for schools to help inform teaching and learning whilst avoiding unnecessary burdens on teachers or anxiety for young children. We intend to work with government to ensure that this is exactly where we end up. Taken together, these measures are a big step in the right direction.

NAHT assessment specialist Sarah Hannafin added:

Changes to the assessment of writing and the writing frameworks for 2017 are extremely welcome and necessary. This is a positive change, happening this year, which will be fairer for pupils and will put teachers’ professional judgement back at the heart of the assessment of writing.

Julie McCulloch, primary specialist from the Association of Schools and College Leaders:

The decision to introduce a baseline assessment in reception and to scrap compulsory SATs for seven-year-olds is good for children and schools. ASCL has been working closely with the Department for Education to achieve this result and we will continue to do so over the delivery of these reforms. For the first time, schools will be given credit for a child’s progress through their whole time at primary school from the age of four to 11, instead of the current system which measures progress only from the age of seven. It is a better and fairer way of seeing how well schools are achieving for all their children, including in the crucial early years.

Mark Lehain, Parents and Teachers for Excellence:

As someone who firmly believes in the importance of assessment and accountability, even at a young age, I’m pleased that this has been addressed…having a baseline assessment is another step on the path to a more reliable, less stressful system for primary pupils and teachers.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said:

A good primary education lays the foundations for success at secondary school and beyond. This year’s key stage 2 results showed our curriculum reforms are starting to raise standards and it is vital we have an assessment system that supports that.

These changes will free up teachers to educate and inspire young children while holding schools to account in a proportionate and effective way.

Please see here for the Secretary of State’s full statement on the national funding formula.


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