School funding and why it's making headlines

29/09/17

Have you noticed news stories about the 4,000 head teachers who are distributing a letter to parents across England about school funding and budget squeezes? Perhaps you're one of the parents to receive it?

Throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, many groups from unions and educators to organised school staff and parents will have their say about school funding in the coming months. The reason is that the Chancellor (Philip Hammond) announces the Autumn Budget soon on November 22nd. The budget will reveal how the government will allocate monies to state departments in England, including the Department for Education. By keeping school funding at the top of the news agenda, it's hoped to influence decision-making so that further financial resources go to the DfE, on top of the £1.3 billion of reallocated money that Education Secretary Justine Greening has already announced for schools. Under devolution, funding for education is set locally by assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland, so the immediate impact of the Autumn Budget will be specific to England.

The National Funding Formula (NFF)

The new National Funding Formula is also to be introduced by the government for all state-funded schools in England. This is a separate but related issue to school funding. The formula is a new way of distributing funds to individual schools. Implementing it is seen as a way to address historical injustices that saw similar schools receiving wildly disparate amounts in their annual budgets. Any further funding to the overall DfE's budget for schools announced by the Chancellor will not change the formula, but simply see more money spread to schools via the new formula. See our guide for parents on the new National Funding Formula for more. 

What parents think

Although parents are making their voices heard about school funding, unions and educators have tended to drive the headlines. However, our annual Parent Survey has helped to give parents a national voice on this important issue.

The key highlights show:

  • more than 3/4 parents believe the cost of sending a child to state school is increasing
  • more than half are concerned by the costs
  • both figures have increased significantly since 2016
  • more parents have been asked to voluntarily donate to their school fund, and
  • more parents are donating to their school fund compared to 2016.
For further details on parents' views on school funding, see our easy-to-digest infographic as well as the full report.

How can you and/or your PTA help?

When issues first started to generate headlines, we wrote an open letter to parents and PTAs, stating our position on school funding

Parent groups in schools have never been more important. With more and more parents concerned by school funding issues and keen to support their school, there's never been a better time to engage parents and bring them on board so that PTAs can contribute by fundraising for their school and providing parents with a voice. To help you out, we created a template letter for PTAs to use to personalise and hand out to parents.

Our Parent Survey 2017 showed that using PTA money to support the school’s core budget was one of the top ideas favoured by respondents. Such initiatives won’t solve funding problems, but the contributions are valued by school leaders and lead to opportunities for parents to get involved.

For help on getting your parent group influencing decision-making, see our Developing Parent Voice guidance.

Stay informed

There are plenty of ways you can get involved at school and volunteer your time and experience. Our weekly news roundups will keep you up to speed on key education headlines. Why not subscribe to our Parent eBulletin and receive the essential news and ways to get involved and have your say delivered to your inbox every half-term?