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West Bridgford headteacher hits out at Government funding mistake

The headteacher of a West Bridgford school says the Government must be held accountable for an “incredibly serious” miscalculation of funding.

In July schools were given an idea of the amount of funding they could expect to receive in 2024/25, based on a formula that determines how much each gets from a £59.6bn national education budget.

However, on Friday, October 6, the Department for Education (DfE) said it had made a mistake and over-inflated funding.

Schools in Nottingham will lose out on just under £1.9m in funding as a result.

Sandra Stapleton, the principal at the Nottingham Emmanuel School in West Bridgford, said the blunder means her school now has £52,000 less in funding.

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“I have just sat and worked out that it is going to be a nearly £52,000 drop in my funding, having struggled already to set a budget this year,” she said during a Nottingham City Council Schools Forum meeting on October 10.

“That is only going to have to come from educational services in my school, which means the money that goes to children’s education.

“I don’t know how I will set a budget next year. I don’t think I’ll have any educational services budget.

“I do think, knowing what was shared with city secondary heads last week in regards to the financial situation in Nottingham City Council, that the DfE need to be accountable for this.

“They are not helping local authorities by making massive mistakes and expecting us to put up with it.”

Julia Holmes, the senior commercial business partner in the schools funding team at the council, added: “The error was a technical error that had not included all the pupil numbers nationally, so once they had put all the additional pupil numbers in that then meant it was unaffordable.”

The Government apologised for the error and has promised a review of the quality assurance processes, assessed independently.

The original plan was to increase per-pupil funding by up to 2.7 per cent, but this has now been revised by up to 1.9 per cent.

Some schools in Nottingham will now receive 1.4 per cent, instead of 2.4 per cent.

However based on illustrative funding allocations from the DfE for 2024/25, around 37 per cent of primary schools and 31 per cent of secondary schools in Nottingham will actually only receive a funding increase by 0.5 per cent per pupil.

During the meeting this fact was said to be “extremely concerning” given teacher pay rises of 6.5 per cent were approved from September.

Sheena Wheatley, who was representing the teaching unions during the meeting, said: “The error in funding is incredibly serious.

“We’ve done some work on the impact on the schools in the city and every school will be impacted negatively, some of them hugely.

“What that represents across the city schools is £1.890m less in the budgets than we had expected.

“This is an absolutely huge sum given that schools are already very, very strapped for funding in all sorts of ways.

“How aware are people of the immediate impact of what, in most primary schools, is upwards of £20,000, in secondary is in the £30,000s, and the highest is about £76,000 less funding than they thought they were dealing with in July?”

Meanwhile, Ms Holmes said it had been “good news” for funding of spaces for children with special educataional needs.

For these children, all local authorities will receive an increase between three and five per cent for each pupil.

Nottingham will receive five per cent, which equates to a £2.8m increase.

Around £330,000 will be used to create 43 new spaces in 2024/25, including 10 new spaces at Nethergate, two at Fernwood Primary, eight at Denewood Academy, 20 at Nottingham College and six at Djanogly Strelley Academy.

Of the overall error, Nick Lee, the council’s director of education, added: “There is a sector response to it and there is a political response to it.

“But clearly, with a situation where we have very challenging school budgets, clearly the impact is very disappointing at the very least.”

In a letter published on Friday (October 6) outlining the error, Susan Acland-Hood, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education, said: “We recognise that the correction of this error will be difficult for local authorities and frustrating for some school leaders, which is why the Department has worked as quickly as possible to rectify the error.

“We will work closely with school stakeholders, including unions, to communicate this change and support schools and local authorities.”

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