Education Minister John O’Dowd has announced that all grant-aided schools have been informed today of their budgets for the 2014/15 financial year.
The Minister made the announcement after making final decisions on changes to the Common Funding Scheme (CFS). Mr O’Dowd was also able to confirm that the amount of money directly delegated to schools is to rise by £26.5million over the current financial year.
Announcing the budgets, the Minister said: “Since my appointment as Education Minister I have been clear that I want to create a system that provides every child with an excellent education. I was not convinced that the existing arrangements for funding schools reflected this aim; therefore I asked an independent panel to provide me with recommendations on the future shape of the CFS.
“Last year, after consideration of these recommendations, I published my proposals for consultation. I was very pleased with the response rate to the draft proposals. The fact that nearly 15,000 responses were received illustrates the passion felt by local communities about their young people’s education.
“I promised to listen to the views expressed during the consultation and that is exactly what I have done. In response, I have amended a number of my proposals to reflect some of the concerns raised while at the same time maintaining the key principle behind the changes of ensuring we target increased resources at social deprivation. I have also delivered on my commitment that no school will receive less money this year than it would have if I hadn’t made any changes.”
Among the changes to the CFF, the Minister has decided to create two discrete funding streams within the formula – one for primary and nursery and one for post-primary. Following feedback during the consultation he has also moved to redirect one-third of the funding previously available under the ‘Warnock’ factor to primary schools’ core budgets, with the balance being directed to tackling disadvantage. This is to reflect the strong correlation between social disadvantage and educational attainment.
Mr O’Dowd continued: “One of the key issues arising from the consultation was the impact the proposed changes would have had on the primary sector. In response I am targeting the majority of the additional finance available next year to the primary and nursery funding stream. In addition I have also moved to increase the per-pupil weighting in the primary sector from 1.06 to 1.08.
“Furthermore, in recognition of the specific challenges faced by looked-after children, I am creating a factor specifically to target additional funding to schools that cater for this vulnerable group of children.”
Transitional payments will be made to those schools whose budget under the new arrangements is less than the school would have received had the formula and budget remained the same as in 2013/14. These payments range from £2 to £11,532. Only 2.5% of schools will require a transitional payment in excess of £5,000.
In conclusion, the Minister said: “Today’s notification of budgets to schools will enable schools to plan with certainty for next year. The current Executive budget runs until March 2015, therefore I do not yet know what resources I will have at my disposal in future years. As the Executive works to finalise budgets for 2015/16, I will continue to work hard to negotiate an increase in funding to help me support schools in the vital work they undertake for our children and young people.”