By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottinghamshire councillors have welcomed millions of pounds in extra funding to support schools and some of the most at-need pupils.
But some have warned the increase needs to be higher amid a “dire need” for fairer funding to support Nottinghamshire’s children.
The Government has confirmed Nottinghamshire County Council will see its Dedicated Schools Grant – used to support education services – increased by £34.5 million for the coming financial year.
Around £24.4 million of this will be an increase in Schools Block funding, which is cash allocated to schools independently of any specific factors relating to its pupils.
The authority’s High Needs Block, which is spent supporting pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), will also see its funding increase by slightly more than £10 million – an 11.5 per cent rise.
This section of the council’s budget is currently experiencing “difficulties”, documents state, with a forecasted overspend of £1.5 million for the 2021/22 year.
But councillors were told this is an issue experienced across the country, with further backing required to help schools manage and support SEND pupils.
Overall, the grant increase takes the authority’s educational support from £702.3 million in 2021/22 to £736.8 million for the coming financial year.
The funding will now be distributed between Nottinghamshire schools, academies and early years providers to boost education provision and increase per-head spending.
Speaking in the policy committee meeting on Thursday (February 9), Councillor John Wilmott (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall North, said: “May I say how important this schools and early years funding is.
“This is the money that gives our young children extra opportunities to help with learning, so they can have a standard of education that will help them in later life.”
The way the funding will be distributed to schools and education providers was decided after a meeting of the county’s schools forum.
But speaking in the meeting, Cllr Kate Foale, leader of the Labour group, said there is a need for fairer funding for schools moving forward and urged council leader Ben Bradley (Con) to lobby the Government.
“Anybody who has worked or is associated with schools will know how tight their budgets are,” she said.
“There is a dire need for better funding for schools, particularly in this county, to get fairer funding. I know it’s outside this county’s [control] but we all appreciate this.
“It would be really good if the leader [Ben Bradley] could make this point on our behalf as we need to continue to lobby, and to get across what’s really happening in schools.”
In response, Cllr Bradley said he has “consistently” made the point and believes further Government investment should be provided to improve schools across the country.
He said: “It’s fair to say I consistently make this point. In my personal view, if there’s anything the Government should be spending money on it should be schools and education.
“I would do that to the detriment of all else if I’m honest because it’s clearly the key building block to all sorts of things.
“But I’m pleased to welcome within the Levelling Up White Paper last week that Nottinghamshire will be one of the education investment zones, which will help us to attract more support and funding across teacher retention, SEND and other areas.”
The committee approved the recommendations set out by the schools forum to distribute the funds to education providers.