Poor education funding in Northamptonshire has ‘no rationale’ says council leader

Councillor Jim Harker is calling for the education funding formula to be re-drawn.
Councillor Jim Harker is calling for the education funding formula to be re-drawn.

Further calls to scrap a formula which sees Northamptonshire school pupils underfunded by more than £1,000 each compared to the richest authorities will be made by the county council leader this week.

Councillor Jim Harker (Con, ISE) has renewed pleas to revise the way the government allocates education grants to local authorities and will speak on the matter at the full Northamptonshire County council meeting on Thursday, (September 24).

His call comes days after the new Education Select Committee chairman Ian Carmichael wrote to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan asking when the government would be publishing its plans to shake up school funding.

For the 2015/16 year, Northamptonshire was allocated £4,293 per pupil, compared with Westminster, which was awarded £5,872 per pupil and Brent with £5,357. 
In a report set to be heard at the full council meeting on Thursday, Councillor Harker wrote: “The existing funding model has no rationale and is clearly unfair.

“Children in Northamptonshire deserve the same standard of education as any other child, including those who live in affluent parts of London for example.”

In June the council joined the campaign group f40, which represents the 40 lowest funded authorities in the country and Councillor Harker’s report states those authorities are now collectively lobbying the government for a reform of education funding.

Northampton South MP David Mackintosh is among a number of MPs who have written a letter to the education secretary calling for a review of the funding formula.

Strategic director of the Northampton Primary Academy Trust, Julia Kedwards, said the county’s poor performance in key stages two, three and four could be linked to the lack of money from central government.

She said: “The under funding means there are certain things we struggle to do,

“When you are looking at the opportunities for children and in particular support for vulnerable groups, such as those with free school meals or with special needs, there is simply less money there to support those children.”

But speaking to the Chronicle and Echo last week, leader of the House of Commons Chris Grayling, who scrutinises legislation before it reaches the chamber, said a new funding formula will take a long time to come before Parliament.

“There is always going to be arguments about the allocation of funding,” he said. “As to whether this is the right moment to change, you have to deliver major reform with care, it’s not something we would do lightly.

“A great school is not always about money, it’s about leadership and the whole ethos within the school.”