However, funding challenges are present in both areas, most notably in children’s services where funding has flatlined as demand has soared. Over the last decade, referrals to children’s social services has increased by 107% but funding has not kept pace. More county authorities are implementing child protection plans now than they did do ten years ago. CCN’s research this year showed that per-pupil funding for special educational needs pupils – the high needs block – is inadequate to match demand, with 22 counties projecting to overspend heavily by 2019, with eight of those councils re-routing funding from their schools budgets to help make up the shortfall.
The government’s National Schools Funding Formula does deliver an uplift in funding for county areas, but county pupils are still underfunded compared to urban pupils, especially those in London. The average county pupil will receive 43% less per head compared to the average inner London pupil from the next school year. Therefore, CCN will continue to highlight funding pressures and funding distribution inequality within the system and to argue for a revised role for councils in a mixed economy of schools, including fully-funded school improvement and oversight, school place planning and home to school transport functions.
The well-publicised funding pressures facing counties are also impacting on other schools-related services. CCN research shows that per-pupil costs in delivering home to school transport in rural areas are far higher than in urban locations, and as a result, counties have had to cut back free transport to the statutory minimum in recent years, with over 20,000 pupils in 20 counties no longer receiving free transport in 2017 compared to 2014.