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Poorest schools suffer funding cuts under Tory ‘level up’ reforms

The poorest schools suffered funding cuts under Conservative Party reforms, according to a watchdog.

Government efforts to “level up” funding for education have resulted in cuts to the money going to the most deprived schools.

The Whitehall spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO), says almost 60% of the most deprived fifth of schools had seen a real terms reduction in Government funding since 2017-18.

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Cities with high levels of deprivation, such as Nottingham and Birmingham, as well as most London boroughs, saw cuts while local authorities with relatively low levels of deprivation in the South West, the East Midlands and the South East received increases of around 1%.

The head of the NAO Gareth Davies said: “The Department for Education has met its objective of making the way it allocates school funding more transparent and consistent. However, it is less clear whether it has met its objective of allocating funding fairly.

“Although more deprived areas and schools continue to receive more per-pupil funding than those that are less deprived, the difference in funding has narrowed.

“The department must evaluate whether this funding model is matching resources to need.”

The formula, first introduced in 2018-19, brought in minimum per-pupil funding levels, but because most schools with high levels of deprivation were already receiving above the minimum threshold they did not see any increase.

However, under the formula, more than one in three of the least deprived fifth of schools (37.1%) did get a rise.

In all, in 2020-21 an additional £266 million was allocated to 3,150 schools – none in the poorest fifth.


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