Grammar schools not singled out for funding cuts but state (mainly Protestant) schools are hit hardest

I hope that I’m not the only one who’s finding it difficult to follow  how schools will be affected by Sir Robert Salisbury’s the review of common funding for schools. On Thursday the Irish News reported:

The Irish News this week revealed that 60 of the north’s 68 grammar schools would receive extra cash under the plan – some almost £100,000 a year.

I’d thought that funding reallocations were being strongly favoured for schools with high numbers of pupils on free school meals, a standard measure of social deprivation and disadvantage, as proclaimed by the Sinn Fein education minister John O’Dowd. Earlier in the week he declared:

I have been accused by some of taking money off schools to give to other schools, however no school’s annual budget is confirmed until it is done so by my Department. Therefore the monies I plan to use are not any individual school’s; they are from my Department’s central Aggregated Schools Budget (ASB) of £1.1billion and will be, as in any year, distributed under the Common Funding Scheme when confirmed by me.

“The proposed changes to the CFS for 2014 will, when confirmed, see more money from the ASB going to schools with higher levels of social deprivation. If that annoys some school principals, even if they are set to benefit from it, so be it.”

Why is Mr O’Dowd appearing to defy criticism that hasn’t been made – at least so far? The Irish News report goes some way to clarify. So no grammar school has benefited from a social deprivation fund. OK but this is a drop in the ocean of the Aggregated Schools Budget SB of £1.1 billion. It appears the grammar schools have benefited by the replacement of funding for school premises by funding according to pupil numbers.

So who are the losers? According to a remarkable school-by-school anatomy of the still to be approved scheme presented by  Kathryn Torney in the investigative reporting website The Detail:

OVER 62% of Northern Ireland’s schools would lose money from their annual budgets if controversial Department of Education plans to reform the common funding scheme are given the go ahead.

Budgets for 720 schools – in both the primary and post-primary sectors – would be cut while 424 schools would benefit from an increase.

Over 80% of the total 832 primary schools would be worse off financially under the department’s proposals – compared to just a quarter of post-primaries.

After examining our data, Professor Tony Gallagher – former Head of the School of Education at Queen’s University in Belfast – said that the figures show the greatest increase in funding would go to Catholic schools in the primary, secondary and grammar sectors.

Other key findings from our study include:

  • The largest percentage increase would go to three maintained primary schools in Belfast who would all see their budgets go up by 15%. These schools are St Kieran’s Primary in Poleglass (83% of pupils entitled to free meals), St Bernadette’s Primary on Glenalina Road (93% of pupils entitled to free meals) and Holy Cross Boys’ Primary (78% free meals). These schools’ budgets went up by an average of £147,506.

  • Aside from Garvagh High (which has closed), St Anthony’s Primary in Larne would be the biggest percentage loser under the new scheme – a 6% cut worth over £17,000. They have 31% of pupils entitled to free meals.

  • The largest financial gain would be St Louise’s Comprehensive which would have an additional £292,600 (5%) added to its budget. Almost 41% of the pupils are entitled to receive free school meals.

  • The largest financial loss would be suffered by St Colman’s Primary in Lisburn with an estimated budget cut under the new plans of more than £44,000. This would reduce this school’s budget by 5% from £973,346 to £928,934. This is followed Campbell College grammar in Belfast which would lose over £42,000 – a 1% reduction. Only 1.1% of pupils are entitled to free meals at Campbell – compared to 13.9% at St Colman’s Primary.

  • The ‘winning’ schools would have an average of £37,000 more in their budgets if the proposed changes were already in place this year. The ‘losing’ schools would face an average cut in their funds of just under £8,000.

  • The school with the largest budget this financial year – and if the changes were implemented – is Methodist College in Belfast. It received £7,646,445 this financial year (less VAT).

On the face of it then, the opportunities for sectarian shenanigans  appear limited. Salisbury’s independence has not been challenged. It appears Mr O’ Dowd is on the point of accepting it in full   and no ideological bias against grammar schools as  a sector has been attempted.

I’m looking for two main reactions 1. The results of the consultations on the scheme from the state, still mainly Protestant sector – will they and their political representatives object or accept settlements that fairly reflect a fall in pupil numbers? 2. How financial cuts will expedite school closures and amalgamations, as they surely must.

, , , , ,

  • Morpheus

    If the funding is allocated on the basis of social deprivation why is there shock that there are funding cuts at some Protestant schools? The Detail itself did a story just 2 weeks ago highlighting the levels of social deprivation in Northern Ireland and wrote:
    “Official data from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) shows that 16 of the most deprived wards in Northern Ireland are Catholic, while only six of the least deprived wards are Catholic.”

    So if Catholic wards are the most socially deprived should we be surprised that they get more funding? 4 of the top 20 most socially deprived wards are Protestant and I am sure their funding will increase as well.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Somewhat misleading to suggest that protestant schools hit hardest, though the tendency to look at everything through a sectarian prism leads to such headlines. Indeed, from the press reports, I believe a number of middle class catholic maintained schools will be amongst the most hardest hit in terms of annual budgets.

    All of which is really to miss the point anyway.

    The facts are compelling. In 2011/12, 68% of children not entitled to FSM obtained 5+ GCSEs grades (A*-C) including Maths and English, the basic benchmark for attainment at that level.

    For pupils entitled to FSM, the figure was a paltry 34%.

    This is not about religion, it is about class and social mobility.

    Attempting to improve the prospects of those currently facing the steepest of climbs just to secure the basic level of qualifications that is 5 good GCSE grades is an entirely justifiable endeavour.

    The fact that a majority of working class communities and therefore schools are catholic maintained is but an inconvenient fact for those who would prefer to allocate funds on a sectarian basis (note the DUPs recent election manifesto pledge to improve education prospects for ‘protestant’ boys. Clearly catholic boys don’t register for unionism’s lead party in spite of the fact that these catholic boys form the clear majority of boys not obtaining 5 good GCSEs.)

    Personally, I would like to see Lord Salisbury’s report not only implemented but also followed with an additional set of measures seeking to tie such additional funds with regular, robust ETI inspections to ensure that increased funds translate into improved outcomes where they are most needed.

    We have witnessed innumerable well-financed initiatives aimed at securing such outcomes in the past decade- Achieving Belfast, the Renewing Communities funds pumped exclusively into protestant controlled schools post-Whiterock riots, all with less than satisfactory outcomes.

    O’Dowd is absolutely correct to take this step.

  • Brian Walker

    Nowhere am I quarrelling with redistribution. I’m trying from afar to feel my way through the politics which is as usual is poorly debated. I’m also among the last to endorse a sectarian analysis but we can’t entirely ignore the communal character of the schools system.

    The voluntary/maintained structure of governance which expresses different elements of church influence makes less and less sense, with 100% state funding and a power sharing government – in theory. One would have thought a Catholic ethos whatever it is exactly no longer needed the protection of the institutional church and state schools likewise from Protestant transferors.

    The split is still political/religious although blurring in the state sector and I see little sign of an end to the reality of Catholic management of schools under a slightly different state umbrella. It works and people have confidence in it, as many do over grammar schools.

    My big regret is that the split survives in area plans which might have offered bolder choices of integration and sharing not only for the benefit of society in future but as a better way of absorbing cuts.. But indeed, if the split is what people want despite what they tell pollsters, no one can stop them having it. The same applies to grammar schools.

  • aquifer

    Surely the headline is ‘Schools funding allocated on the basis of social need, Catholic schools gain’, as money allocated to people without much is actually worth more in terms of economic benefit?

    This is not a zero sum game when employers big and small are crying out for employees with skills, and when those with no qualifications and no jobs are the dupes of sectarian hoodlums.

  • Charles_Gould

    Do you know if school fees at the voluntary grammars are regulated?

  • Charles_Gould

    I see that the minister wants schools to offer 27 Alevel subjects.

    We all know that there are a lot of dodgy A levels (photography to philosophy) that teachers may recommend but which are not good for educational standards.

    Shouldn’t we restrict the number of A level choices not widen them, so that people are doing maths, further maths, modern languages, classics, sciences, rather than the dodgy subjects?

    Cambridge University has published a list of “soft” A level choices that students should steer clear of:

    Art and design
    Business studies
    Communication studies
    Design and technology
    Drama and theatre studies
    Film studies
    Health and social care
    Home economics
    Information and Communication Technology
    Leisure studies
    Media studies
    Music technology
    Performance studies
    Performing arts
    Physical education
    Sports studies
    Travel and tourism

  • cynic2

    ” the tendency to look at everything through a sectarian prism leads to such headlines.”

    Oh Chris> From you that one’s a cracker

  • cynic2

    If there is such a disparity in the outcome then how did this survive the equality audit? Time for another JR? Will someone wake up the DUP? All those late night fleg protests do it it out of one.

    But seriously this entire exercise is a political cop out by the Minister. Many schools are hopelessly uneconomic but politically he (and the DUPs) daren’t close them or push for more integrated mergers so we have this nonsense

    An exercise in non-government

  • Kathryn Torney has done some marvellous data mining on exam results and school funding. Unfortunately, the choice of winners and losers branding is highly misleading as an extra £5 makes you a winner and £5 less a loser; a percentage figure produces a better guide to the degree of change and a cost per pupil sheds a different light. There’s a focus on free school meals {FSM}and the special educational needs [SEN] figures don’t get a mention.

    I’ve pulled out a range of figures for post-primary schools in the Coleraine Triangle and listed them by FSM 11/12; [FSM 12/13]; SEN; current funding; change – winner/loser; number of pupils and spending per pupil. I’ve grouped the schools by voluntary grammar [3], controlled grammar [1], secondary [2] and grant maintained integrated [1]; those under Catholic management are starred*:

    Loreto College*: 6.4%; [5.2%]; 5.3%; £3407857; 0%-winner: 798; £4270.
    Coleraine Inst: 5.5%; [6.2%]; 8.1%; £3300476; 0%-loser; 778; £4242.
    Dominican Coll*: 7.2%; [9.1%]; 6.4%; £2166363; 0%-winner; 500; £4333.

    Coleraine High: 6.6%; [7.4%]; 1.7%; £3181177; 1%-winner; 803; £3962.

    St Joseph’s Coll*: 28.3%; [28.5]; 22.9%; £1597508; 0%-loser; 350; £4564.
    Coleraine Coll*: 42%; [40.2]; 29.8%; £1239677; 1%-winner; 262; £4732

    North Coast Int: 31.7%; [35.2%]; 18.3%; £2122467; 2%-winner; 454; £4675

  • A footnote re. Loreto and St Joseph’s in Coleraine: the voluntary grammar receives an additional £20.07 per pupil whereas the maintained school loses £18.73. This would seem to stand the Minister’s intention on its head but the maintained school was receiving £294 per pupil more than the voluntary grammar.

    Another footnote re. Loreto and Coleraine High. Both are grammar schools; the former voluntary, the latter controlled; the former co-ed, the latter girls; yet the former is in receipt of an additional £308 per pupil despite similar FSM figures. Are the girls getting a raw deal?

  • feismother

    Up until now voluntary grammar schools (along with GMIs, I think) have have been responsible for paying VAT. The Salisbury report recommends that they should now be able to reclaim this cost. I believe this mitigates some of what they would lose under other aspects of the proposed changes.

    It may account for what you see as the anomaly in the Loreto/Coleraine High case, Nevin.

  • Thanks for pointing this out, feismother. Are there figures for the VAT for the four schools I’ve listed?

  • feismother

    If the figures are taken from The Detail, I think they’ve factored it in. I sit on the board of a voluntary grammar (relatively high FSM) and we’ve worked out that reclaiming VAT will almost make up for what we lose on the formula. The Detail shows us as having a 1% rise.

    I find those maps The Detail do quite confusing. Schools aren’t where they are supposed to be and one I know well isn’t on it.

    I also sit on the Board of a Controlled Nursery which stands to gain considerably, being in an area of very high deprivation.

  • Charles_Gould

    If I read it right, this does not allocate money to underachieving schools, in fact it seems to take money from them. That is what the prof says.

  • feismother, voluntary grammar schools get an allowance to cover VAT [page 99, pdf file]. According to my dodgy calculations a school with about 800 pupils would receive about £100,000. The difference in the Loreto and Coleraine High figures is about £220,000. Presumably this leads to a loss of teaching staff and additional pressure on the remainder.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I find it hard to accept that eating free school dinners makes it harder for you to achieve. This seems to be a very blunt instrument indeed in improving school results. Coming from, and living in, what is designated a deprived area, I do not accept that money will fix the problem of underachievement. Attitude and aptitude will do that. Does anyone ever think that people do not achieve academically because they cannot? The poor will always be with us and so will the thick. Can it be that the majority of poor people are also thicker than the rest of society? Could it be that they cannot afford to live in better surroundings? And can it be that they tend to produce offspring that have the limited mental capacity as their parents?

    This attempt to make everyone the same is just socialism in action. The attempt by SF to create a uniform society will do damage as the elite we need to drive society forward will suffer.

  • feismother, I’m struggling to get my head around this stuff. My figures are taken from the two Detail articles:

    The department provided us with new data for 89 schools in the grant maintained integrated and voluntary grammar sectors. These figures show the funding received by the schools this financial year with VAT removed.

    Does this take me back to the £308 per pupil difference I started with? 🙂

  • feismother

    Not sure, Nevin. I did look for the budget allocations for the current year under the existing formula. Coleraine High gets £3179,875 and Loreto, £3834,103. There are allowances in the voluntary sector to cover certain costs which the controlled/maintained sector don’t have – running their own pay roll, employing a bursar etc.

    From experience it can all seem quite arcane. What you’d really need would be to have a budget for each itemised as per the formula. They do exist, not sure if they’re available on the net.

  • feismother

    “Coming from, and living in, what is designated a deprived area, I do not accept that money will fix the problem of underachievement.”

    No, Coll Ciotach, it will never fix everything but can go a long way. The problem, I think, that at times money is allocated and there’s no proper audit of how it’s spent and whether what it was spent on makes a difference. I’ve been a governor for over twenty years and have experience of controlled nursery, maintained primary and voluntary grammar and have seen many initiatives come and go. An example of a very good one would be the employment of a speech therapist by a nursery school to work with speech and language delays in the children.

  • Rory Carr

    There is no doubt that Coll Ciotach asks all the hard questions. Like this:

    ” Could it be that they [poor people] cannot afford to live in better surroundings? ”

    Mmm I’ll have to think about that one.

  • Charles_Gould

    Does anyone know what the limits are to the fees that voluntary grammars charge to their pupils, and whether these can be increased much?

  • Coll Ciotach

    I cannot see the correlation of eating a free school meal and having a speech impediment is unless of course you are scared of asking for more. I would be more concerned with the provision of access to the internet as more schools start to expect the children to do homeworks via this medium. If we were to put more cash into this type of investment instead of robbing Peter to pay Paul it would have better results in my opinion, bit like Carnegie’s libraries in a previous era.

  • Charles_Gould

    A child living in a deprived area does not have the same network. Has few well-educated people to inspire them.

  • Barnshee

    What makes these areas “deprived” ?

    Are there no schools available?
    Do schools employ poor teachers?
    Might people be authors of their own misfortune?
    Do individuals ever stop and think —it might be my fault?

    ““In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

    E Roosevelt

  • Zig70

    I do take issue with your poor and thick Coll Ciotach, though I get you are probably highlighting a blunt instrument for a complex issue. Confidence and aspiration abound in some thick rich folk. The issue is big enough without trying to bling it with a tribal slant. Lots of parents are aghast at the prospect of losing money for their kids education after they did the research and took the effort to find a good school. Again not that simple. We have to put the responsibility on the professionals to achieve for their sector rather than playing Robin Hood.

  • cynic2

    “I find it hard to accept that eating free school dinners makes it harder for you to achieve. ”

    The Department or Minister would never resort to lazy stereotyping

    A real question …..why don’t we cut the Department’s own budget by say 70% abolish all the boards except ESA which could be a central procurement unit and make all schools free schools controlling their own budgets. The money freed up would allow us to spend more per child on actually educating them.

    I know – giving people real power to do well without the Guidance of parish pump politicians is a dangerous option

  • cynic2

    “We have to put the responsibility on the professionals to achieve for their sector rather than playing Robin Hood.”

    But will they when weighted down by Department Diktats and the weight of local Councillors ‘informed’ opinions

  • Seamuscamp

    Coll Ciotach

    Some poor people are thick; some rich people are thick. Some poor people are clever; some rich people are clever. Well-fed people are more likely to perform better than hungry people who are equally clever or equally thick. Few rich people are hungry.

    If you can’t follow through the logic, ask some rich thicko to explain.

  • Barney


    I would love to know which areas have been designated as “deprived” and by whom.
    Free school meals is the only measure we have and the only way to rectify inequality and promote social mobility is to have a year zero approach to education, parental choice indicates that faith based schools remain however everything else must go.

    It must be grand to include yourself in this elite how can I join?

  • Coll Ciotach

    Barney = NINIS have a look at their website and educate yourself – you may enter the ranks of the elite so be warned. If school meals are the only indictaor of poverty then the solution is easy. Ban them and poverty goes too. Simples.

  • Barney

    I asked which areas have been designated as “deprived” and by whom. I know you cant answer as that has not happened. Talking horsefeathers is no substitute for truth.

    You can be a flippant as you wish but the question remains if we dont use free meals which measure do we use?

  • Coll Ciotach

    O’ Dowd talks about deprivation and were you get deprivation you get deprived and as areas are served by schools I think the extrapolation is fair enough. Perhaps SF have not put that onto their leaflet for you but I am sure you can keep up with this so far. I do hope you get those horsefeathers out of your gub.

    The answer remains – use the measures NINIS uses.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Strangely enough Seamuscamp free school meals undermine the hungry and underachieving argument

  • Barney

    The fact remains that you said something that is not true and being rude doesnt make it right.

    To follow your logic remove child benefit and you remove child poverty do you not agree? Or is there a chance that you were indeed talking horse feathers.

    I must have missed the bit where I posted my voting record or did you make that up as well?

  • Barney

    One meal a day doesnt equal well fed……….

  • Coll Ciotach

    Have you sorted out the deprived bit yet Barney – or did you get free school dinners?

  • Barney

    A lie remains a lie no matter how often you repeat it but feel free to troll on by for a bit.

  • cynic2

    Oh dear ….its like Form 1 in the playground boys

  • Charles_Gould

    “My big regret is that the split survives in area plans which might have offered bolder choices of integration and sharing not only for the benefit of society in future but as a better way of absorbing cuts.”

    Moi aussi. A missed opportunity.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Barney – do you ever read? First you said that no one talked about deprived areas yet O’Dowd did, then you say that someone said you were in SF, no one did. Maybe your school should have benn paid more when you were on Blue Book 3

  • Coll Ciotach

    It all boils down to a very blunt and stupid way to address the problem of underperformance amongst children. I do not for an instance believe that someone who gets a free school meal is an underperformer. And underperformance affects every school in every area. If O’Dowd srriously believes that children who are more poor than others underperforms solely because of their poverty there are far better ways to fix that. In fact, if you believe this, this modus operandi discriminates badly against those poor underperformers in schools were few get free school dinners.

  • Charles_Gould

    This whole discussion shows that there is a great need to move away from having mono-denominational schools.

  • Barney

    It is a tad childish I agree this is what happens when engaging someone with reading comprehension problems.

    I simply asked the guy to provide a link to substantiate his claim

  • Coll Ciotach

    Charles – you are correct – let us only have Catholic ones

  • Coll Ciotach

    No Barney – you asked more than that and got provided the answers on them all, this is the first time you asked for a link yet I have continuously told you about the NINIS site, but since you seem unable to google it I will leave you in your ignorance.

  • Barney

    At the risk of opening this pointless nonsense again……..
    FSM are the only and accepted standard of measuring the relative prosperity of a school’s catchment area, there is no other way to measure it and there is a correlation between FSM and poor academic performance.
    Not one mainstream educationalist suggests that poverty causes academic underachievement to suggest otherwise is at best disingenuous but a very strong correlation does exist. Of course its entirely possible that there may be some other factors at play however the evidence is not there to draw any conclusions.
    To take one example, its know that parental engagement is important however there is no adequate way to measure this and have a free society.
    Suggesting that an area has been designated as deprived is just not true, no area in the North has been marked as deprived. There are economic indices that may lead one to think that if one were not used to dealing with statistical data. On top of this the catchment areas of most schools straddle many electoral wards making the compilation of economic indicators redundant as a measure of a school’s relative prosperity so we are back to FSM.
    There are always some who like to play the Thatcherite card however a normal distribution doesn’t care for economic indicators but the statistics show that the current system produces a distribution skewed towards the rich.

  • Coll Ciotach

    To return to this nonsense for hopefully the last time FSM are not the only measure of deprivation in an area, the govt has been doing it for years in order to grant aid areas, once again for the slow of learning if you visit NINIS you can see multiple measures of deprivation being used. In fact to say that FSM are the only measure is just plainly silly. Talk about sticking to a narrative.

    The stupidity of using FSM as a marker to designate intervention is also wrong in that the pupils who need help are not only being denied it if they are at a school were the majority are not getting FSM but are being punished as resources are removed from them elsewhere. Their situation is worsened.

    This is a most stupid blunt instrument and will not work. It is nothing but socialist ideology raging against the fact that some are more able than others but, instead of concentrating on helping the individuals who need help the idea is to pull the top down to the lower levels.

  • Charles_Gould

    I agree with Coll that FSM is blunt. Very blunt. A better way must be possible.

  • Barney

    A better way is always desirable however none has been identified, the indices used on a ward basis are useless as pointed out above because they dont correspond to a school’s catchment area. If you would like selection by post code then Methody and Inst become Sandy Row’s local schools. St Doms serves the lower falls and so on, to me it makes sense as Grammar schools prevent social mobility.

  • Coll Ciotach

    grammar schools promote social mobility – comprehensive prevents it. This is not about social mobility, in fact it is against it. It creates a mediocrity.