Following a long-running campaign in which he has lobbied government to adopt a fairer funding formula for rural schools, Rory Stewart MP – who is also Minister for Rural Affairs in DEFRA, and a champion for rural-proofing of government policy – has hailed today’s news of a consultation into fairer school-funding as a “significant breakthrough”.

Proposals outlined today by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, aim to provide a basic amount of cash per pupil, additional money for extra needs, including deprivation, low prior attainment and English as an additional language. Importantly, funding will also be allocated based on school costs, including schools serving rural communities. The present system can see a school in one part of the country receive much more money than another elsewhere, despite having the same number of pupils.

Rory Stewart said: “This is a significant breakthrough, recognised today by the Prime Minister himself as a great result. The argument for fair funding has been an incredibly important one in Penrith and The Border, and indeed in Cumbria, where we have seen schools right across the county making sensible and justifiable cases for a formula that recognises our unique needs. This is not simply about what happens in the classroom. Our rural schools are cores of our community: children and young families bring life to our villages. We have lost far too many rural schools over the last decades. And schools with very few students are always in a tight financial situation. I feel the government’s move shows flexibility and imagination, and is a good sign that they are listening to rural communities.”

In addition, it is proposed that all schools are set to receive their money directly, rather than via the local authority.

Commenting on the proposals, Secretary of State Nicky Morgan said: “We want every school in England to get the funding it deserves, so that all children – whatever their background and wherever they live in the country – get a great education. The introduction of a national funding formula from 2017-18 will see the biggest step towards fairer funding in over a decade – ensuring that pupils get funding that genuinely matches their need. It will also ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to receive significant additional funding to overcome entrenched barriers to their success. This is a key part of our core mission to extend opportunity to all children and provide educational excellence in all parts of the country: rural and urban, shire and metropolitan, north and south.”

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