Call for fairer funding for North Yorkshire’s rural schools

Classroom file pic.

A North Yorkshire education boss has pledged to continue to push the Government for fairer funding for schools in market towns and villages, as well as extra money for high needs pupils.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for education said while the coming year would see the first genuine rise in funding for both primary and secondary school pupils in some time, schools coffers had been wiped out or depleted following years of austerity.

Ahead of the authority’s executive setting schools’ budgets for the coming year next week, Councillor Patrick Mulligan said while the Government had committed to a three per cent rise in funding for schools over the next two years, the funding outlook remains challenging for a number of schools, particularly small, rural secondary ones.

However, he believes financial pressures that have escalated at schools for years will start to ease.

A shortage in funding for special educational needs and disabled pupils in recent years has led to funding being top sliced from the budgets of mainstream schools. Cllr Mulligan said the authority would not have to repeat that process for the coming year after receiving extra Government funding for special needs pupils.

Agreed minimum per pupil funding levels will ensure that every primary school receives at least £4,000 per pupil, and every secondary school at least £5,150 per pupil. In addition, primary schools will receive an additional £180 per pupil and secondary schools £265 per pupil respectively to cover additional teachers’ pay and pension costs previously funded through the separate grants.

Government funding for small and remote schools will increase in 2021-22, although the vast majority of the rise will be directed towards primary schools.

Cllr Mulligan said: “Secondary schools funding really needs to increase. The Government has promised it will look at it, because the rural secondary schools have different challenges to those you would find at an urban secondary school.”

He said while Ofsted included breadth of schools’ curriculum among its rating criteria, the number of subjects that could be offered was dependent on the overall funding schools received, leaving small rural schools which could not achieve economies of scale at a disadvantage.

Cllr Mulligan said: “Schools have found themselves struggling up until now because during austerity they were getting very little increases in funding, but I believe there will be genuine rise in funding for both primary and secondary school pupils this coming year. We need to ensure that is maintained going on into the future. It’s hard to say what is going to happen due to the amount of money that the Government has had to spend during the Covid crisis. We still feel very strongly education is at the heart of our future society and we’ve got to give young people every chance.”