Melinda Tilley

Oxford Mail:

County Council Cabinet Member for Children, Education and Families

It may come as a surprise to some readers, but schools in Oxfordshire receive considerably less Government funding than those in most other parts of the country, and have done so for many years.

The good news is this may be about to change.

How can this have happened in the first place? The injustice is obvious, the explanation for it less so.

In the simplest terms, the national Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) formula is based on outdated figures from pre-2005/6 and does not reflect changes in the demographic circumstances of local authorities.

This creates a huge disparity between the lowest and highest funded authorities, meaning investment in pupils from similar backgrounds requiring similar support is very different depending on where they happen to live.

Under the current ‘schools block’ allocation, Oxfordshire receives £4,312.22 per pupil, making it 125th for funding amount out of 151 authorities.

By comparison Tower Hamlets enjoys £7,006.87 per pupil.

The lowest-funded authority is Wokingham, which receives £4,150.90 per pupil.

In lower-funded authorities like Oxfordshire, schools and academies have to prioritise meeting core costs – such as staffing and premises – with less to spend on additional support for pupils.

Anyone with an interest in Oxfordshire children fulfilling their potential at school – and that’s all of us – should be concerned by a status quo which appears to value the education of children in some areas more than others.

It’s not fair, which is why F40 – a lobbying group representing the 40 worst funded authorities, including Oxfordshire County Council – was set up several years ago to get this changed.

The efforts of many people, including the Oxfordshire Schools Forum, individual headteachers and local MPs now appear to have made a difference.

The Government has acknowledged that a full review of the funding system is required and has committed to consulting early this year on proposals for a new national formula to be introduced in 2017/18.

The consultation exercise should begin soon and Oxfordshire will be responding both individually and as part of F40.

We will need to look carefully at the government’s proposals and consult with schools about what this means for the county’s children.

For now though, there are grounds for cautious optimism that Oxfordshire schools will get a fairer deal in future.

The many people involved in the F40 campaign deserve great credit for maintaining the pressure on Government and ensuring our voices have eventually been heard.