Norfolk leaders welcome education funding changes

Great Yarmouth Borough local elections/ mayoral election and AV vote at Great Yarmouth Town Hall.Mic

Great Yarmouth Borough local elections/ mayoral election and AV vote at Great Yarmouth Town Hall.Mick Castle (Labour)Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

School funding reforms which were thought to put rural schools at risk have been changed to give local authorities more freedom.

Norfolk County Council has cautiously welcomed the adjustment to the new national funding formula which will allow extra funding to be given to schools in more sparsely populated areas.

Under the original plan, each school received a lump-sum and an amount related to the number of pupils. While the lump sum could be decided by each local authority, the government imposed the new condition that every school in its area must receive the same lump sum, regardless of size, location or age of pupils.

But concerns were raised about the new plans amid concerns it could force rural schools, which could not attract large numbers of pupils, to close. Schools minister David Laws said that the government would 'maintain momentum' towards a national funding formula by requiring local authorities to allocate a minimum of 80pc of their funding on the basis of pupil characteristics, with a minimum amount of money per pupil, but from 2014, local authorities will be able to give extra funding to schools in sparsely populated areas.

Mick Castle, cabinet member for schools at Norfolk County Council, said: 'The decision by the education minister is good news for Norfolk as we have a high number of rural schools in the county which would have potentially lost out if the government had gone ahead with the original funding arrangements. This announcement shows the government has listened to the serious concerns previously raised collectively in Norfolk, which includes concerns from the county council. I am pleased that the government has come to this decision as it provides assurance that small schools will now receive a fair level of funding and they can plan their finances effectively over the next few years.' South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: 'In South West Norfolk and in fact across the whole of the county, the increased challenges faced by schools in sparsely populated areas due to the rural locations meant the 'one size fits all' funding formula was not appropriate.''

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