NEW legislation which aims to make school funding fairer doesn’t go far enough, says Somerset education officials.

It was announced on January 30 new minimum funding levels had been agreed to ensure no school misses out because of their location or ‘historic local rules’.

For the 2020/21 academic year, every secondary school has been guaranteed at least£5,000 per pupil, while every primary school will receive at least £3,750 per pupil, rising to £4,000 the following year.

The Prime Minister announced the budget for schools and high needs would be increased by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and £7.1 billion in 2022-23 respectively – plus an extra £1.5 billion per year to fund additional pensions costs for teachers.

But does this go far enough to solve the crisis for ‘historically under-funded’ Somerset?

While the extra funding is welcomed, according to Somerset County Council and the Somerset Schools Forum, the county is still being left behind.

A spokesperson said: “While a step in the right direction, it continues to be disappointing that education funding for Somerset’s children remains significantly behind the England average. SCC, schools forum, our school leaders and MPs have continually lobbied for fair funding, we do not believe this has been achieved yet.”

In 2020/21 Somerset will receive £4,153 funding per primary pupil, in comparison to the England average of £4,279 and the London average of £4,827. For secondary pupils Somerset will receive £5,164 per pupil compared to the England average of £5,496 and the London average of £6,370.

Somerset is 129 out of 149 local authorities when it comes to secondary school funding, and 95 out of 149 in respect of primary school funding.

The spokesperson added: “We estimate that if funding for Somerset primary pupils was brought up to the average figure for England, the extra money would equate to £1.1m.

"The equivalent figure for secondary pupils would be and extra £4.7m. That’s almost £6 million that our schools and students are missing out on.”

The government says the new formula will help address the imbalance in funding which presented itself depending on where the school was based.

The discrepancies continued as the DfE instituted the ‘soft’ national funding formula, which Somerset has been introducing since 2017. But implementing the new formula is ‘impossible’ without accessing funds from elsewhere in the dedicated schools grant, the spokesperson explained.

READ MORE: "WE NEED HELP": Headteachers plead for fairer school funding across 'deprived' county

In March last year, dozens of headteachers from across Somerset gathered at the county council’s headquarters to hit out at the lack of funding as they struggled to balance budgets.

Yeovil Express:

SUPPORT: Somerset headteachers gathered outside County Hall in Taunton 

Of those school leaders was Steve Gillan, from Thurlbear Primary School, who says he welcomes the new increases, but remains sceptical about its implementation.

Yeovil Express:

HEADTEACHER: Steve Gillan 

He said: “My views on any increase in per-pupil funding will always be welcomed by me as a school leader in Somerset; we have asked and asked for this for such a long time. We wait to see if it comes with conditions attached, or will we actually see it come straight to school for us to utilise?

"Previously, our government offered every school a small contribution to get some of those ‘nice-to-haves’, I believe they called it. What they failed to tell the country was that this money did not come directly to schools and it actually cost a church school like ours a substantial amount of money to access those funds.

"We simply want fair funding so we can give our pupils what they absolutely deserve: to have the very best education, support, resources and environment in which to thrive and prepare for their next stage in education.

The Castle School in Taunton is set to receive the minimum of £5,000 per pupil - £496 less the national average, and just £200 more than last year.

Yeovil Express:

LEADER: Sarah Watson 

Headteacher, Sarah Watson, welcomes the slight increase, despite it only helping to cover other government-mandated costs.

She said: “This increase should cover the additional costs of the new government policy to boost the salary of newly qualified teachers and the costs of increased pension contributions.

“We must not simply settle for this however and must keep the pressure up for additional funding for our children’s education. There is still a long way to go to make up for the years of real terms cuts that schools have had to manage.”

To find out how much funding your school is getting, visit skillsfunding.service.gov.uk/national-funding-formula/2020-2021/start.