Revealed: Stour Valley Free School gets £1.4 Million funding for pupils it doesn't have
|Stour Valley Community School, Clare|
In education jargon it was fully funded to its PAN (Planned Admission Number). All other schools are funded by the pupils they actually have on roll. This per pupil funding makes up the vast majority of all school budgets.
Now this might not really matter if the school was either full or nearly full but this was far from the case at Clare when the school opened in September. Across the three years of entry that opened the capacity of the school is 324 but it opened with 190 pupils.
Taking the average £5,325 that a Suffolk secondary school gets per place this means it received a total of £713,550 in additional funding for pupils that the school simply doesn’t have. Apparently this continues for two years making a cool £1.4 million.
What really surprised me is everyone in the room seemed to know this and the Suffolk County Council official present did too and confirmed this was true. Clearly he was constrained by what he could say but he did make the point that local schools were unhappy about the inequitable funding and also that they had confirmed to the DfE that there were no additional school places needed in the area.
|Building work at Stour Valley|
This might not be the end of the story. After I wrote my piece on the £1 million wage bill for managers at Beccles and Saxmundham Free Schools I became aware of something called diseconomy funding which is a grant free schools can apply for to pay for management costs in their first years of operation. I think this is in addition to the per pupil funding. What if any funding Clare received I do not yet know.
For new free schools opening in 2012 and beyond it is unclear what they will receive. The whole process is surrounded in so much secrecy but someone reliable did say they would be fully funded by PAN for one year rather than two. It might be individually negotiated.
But with this extra funding, capital investment for building work and free transport from more or less anywhere this school would have to work extremely hard not to succeed.
We have already seen the impact on Sudbury Upper School as it is having to be taken over by an academy sponsor. The nightmare scenario though is that despite this there are declining numbers of children and it is far from impossible that one of the schools in the local area will fail completely.
That school isn’t going to be Stour Valley. If this happens we will be left with a secondary school in Clare, a small town with a population of around 2,000 serving a much larger town like Sudbury with 17,000 people. I hope they are building plenty of space for buses at Stour Valley...
This is what school provision by petition rather than planning gets you.