Schoolzone: The politics of the national funding formula?

Update: The politics of the national funding formula?


18 Jan 2017 (first published 19 Dec 2016)

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Looking at the schools who do well or badly out of the proposed NFF, prompted us to wonder whether there might be any political motivation about the suggested formula. Do Labour controlled areas get less cash from the NFF, for example? Surely not.

Update: the unions have also looked at this and come up with similar observations - see below.

The figures are quite surprising; for secondary schools especially. We worked out* the per pupil differences in cash allocations and ranked them by the amount changed, then looked at the top 100 and the bottom 100.

Schools doing worse from the NFF:

Among the 100 secondary who do worst from the NFF (ie have the biggest decrease per pupil), 73% are in Labour councils, whereas only 8% are in Conservative ones. Across all secondaries there is an even split in control of each party. 

At primary, the same pattern in the worst off 100 is similar: 59% Labour, 12% Conservative.

Schools doing better out of the NFF:

At the other end, among the top 100 secondary schools getting more from the NFF, those in Labour council areas do a bit better than those in Conservative ones: 54% are in Labour areas; 24% are Conservative. The national split is 38% each.

Among the 100 primaries doing best out of NFF, Labour areas do reasonably well - 42% of the top 100 are in Labour council areas, whereas the national picture is that 34% are.

Unions' findings:

According to the analysis by an alliance of teachers unions and our sums, out of the worst hit quartile (132) of MP's constituencies, 28% are Conservative, while 73% are Labour. At the opposite end, the least worst hit quartile, 77% are Conservative, 23% are Labour.


Labour tend to hold more city councils; Conservatives, more rural. Secondary schools tend to be more urban; primaries more rural. That's part of this general pattern, but the shift in the NFF funding is a lot more marked than that.

Inner city authorities tend to be held by Labour: their schools have traditionally received more funding, because they have higher (sometimes much higher) social deprivation. But, if you look at the 100 least well funded secondaries under the current model, you see that 64% of them are in Conservative councils, while only 12% are in Labour held ones. 89% (sec) and 84% (pri) are in urban areas.

Inner cities are also the areas which have tended to resist conversion to academies, too. Other Schoolzone posts have lamented that PP funding wasn't working, of course, but that's been more to do with the lack of any evidence that it's bringing any benefit to less well-off pupils, not that inner city schools need more more cash to combat the effect of deprivation and especially to attract teachers.

So the net effect of the NFF, whether intentional or not, is that something along these lines could well happen:

City schools under LA control, in cities, get less cash (10 of the bottom 12 are in Labour areas and they'll get between £145 and £950 less per pupil). So they cut staff and perform less well and are forced to convert to academies. That being a central plank of conservative education policy, of course. So Labour councils lose schools and therefore the capacity to support schools, so they the others convert to academies, too.

That might be a jaundiced, or politically biased view, or a worst case scenario, but look at those figures again:

Composition of the bottom 100 by current funding and the bottom 100 by the new NFF funding model:

Council control Current Secondary NFF
Labour 12% 73% 38% 54%
Conservative 64% 8% 41% 26%
No overall control/LD 24% 19% 21% 20%

OK, this is just one, simple way of looking at the data. What if we look at all the net losers:

Council control NFF


Labour 46% 44%
Conservative 28% 31%
No overall control/LD 25% 26%


We'll be looking at the NFF in different ways over the consulation period: please get in touch if there's anything you'd like us to investigate:


* Calculations based on:

NFF funding illustrations:

School census data (pupil numbers):

Council control data :

Urban/rural categorisation: Edubase




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