Merton continues to push for school place funding

Merton Council is continuing to push for additional funding for school places despite the Government grant not providing the much-needed financial support.

The current national primary school basic need capital funding formula has left the authority struggling to fully fund the new school places needed to educate Merton’s growing population of under fives.

Cabinet member for children’s services Councillor Debbie Shears said: ‘We are very disappointed at the Government’s decision not to provide Merton with a special grant to fund our pupil place needs but we are continuing to make the strongest representations to alter this position. This funding would have such a significant impact on the future of education in Merton and the wellbeing of our children and we are prepared to fight the decision.

“We are currently pressing to meet the relevant Minister to state our case directly and seek reconsideration of the decision.”

In January, Merton’s Cabinet agreed a capital programme of £31.2 m to fund schemes between 2010 and 2013. Further funding will be needed to provide for sufficient primary places and for primary school improvements in subsequent years.

The increase in demand for primary school places is a trend seen across London with many boroughs making a bid for funding. However the funding formula designed by the Government to allocate the finance to boroughs has meant that Merton has not benefited, despite being one of the worst affected authorities in the capital.

So far, six schools have expanded their reception years over the past two years. Recent school admissions applications confirm this meets the current demand. However to keep up with the projected increase in demand, the council forecasts up to an additional 12 forms of entry will be needed over the next three years, taking the total increase to 18 forms of entry since 2007/8.


Notes to editors:
Neighbouring boroughs who successfully bid for funding were Kingston, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Croydon and Richmond

Merton did not receive funding from the government’s £200 million Basic Need Safety Valve funding because the formula used has gone against the council on two main counts:

1. Our allocation was reduced more than other councils due to a previously high (supported borrowing) Basic Need allocation although this is permission to borrow with no financial benefit to the council. Since this was used to discount against any possible grant allocation, this is an approach which disadvantages councils which had planned for the increase.
2. We currently have a higher number of surplus places higher up the primary schools (at the end of Key Stage 2) than average although: these are not in the areas of greatest need for places; are spread across several schools not enabling a particular school to expand; and it is not possible to use them to create the 7 extra class rooms a school would need to host a whole form of entry.