CHANGES to funding arrangements could leave some schools tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket, an Oxford headteacher has warned.

The Department for Education is changing the date on which the number of pupils is counted, meaning schools won’t receive funding for those who start mid-year.

Susie Bagnall, headteacher of St Ebbe’s Primary School, in Whitehouse Road, said this could cost the school about £60,000.

She said: “We lost out on funding for 17 children this year. We have been trying to encourage children to come to us in January and have set our budget accordingly.

“This will mean we lose funding for as many as 20 children, which is massive.”

Mrs Bagnall said the changes had a particularly big impact on St Ebbe’s as the outstanding-rated Grandpont Nursery is only a few hundred metres down the road, meaning many parents choose to keep their children in nursery longer.

Mrs Bagnall said: “The Government is trying to push through a change that will totally penalise us.”

Because funding is calculated according to financial years, it would mean a child starting in January 2013 would not receive any funding until April 2014.

With each child worth about £3,000 to the school, it means the school would lose out on the equivalent of the salary of two experienced teachers.

Mrs Bagnall said: “That means I won’t be able to have the teaching assistant support we would have otherwise and we won’t be able to have the resources these children should be entitled to. “If it does go through it will have a very serious negative impact on our budget and send us into significant deficit.”

The school set its three-year budget in May, based on the current funding arrangements.

Of the 60 children due to take up places at St Ebbe’s in the next academic year, 40 are expected to join in September, another 10 in January and the remaining 10 in April.

Mrs Bagnall said: “How will parents feel when they realise that by deferring their child’s entry to school, their child will not be funded for at least a full year and that their chosen school will need to make stringent cutbacks?

“Every child has a basic entitlement to funding, and parents should be allowed to exercise their right to defer their child’s start at school without the school being penalised.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are moving the census date because of changes to the schools funding system which allows us to get budgets in before the start of the financial year.”

How it is calculated

Money for schools – the Dedicated Schools Grant – is calculated according to the number of pupils at a certain ‘census’ date, which this year was in January.

Schools receive money for each pupil counted during the census date.
Parents can take up school places up until the term after their child’s fifth birthday, meaning some start in January or April rather than at the beginning of the school year.

Now the Department for Education is planning to count the number of children in October, meaning if parents do not take up their places until January or April, the school will not receive any money for those children for the next financial year.