Covid-19 – new DfE guidance on school funding
We look here at the DfE guidance, published today, on school funding for the exceptional costs associated with Covid-19.
We already know that maintained schools and academies will receive their core funding for 2020/21, regardless of any partial or complete closure. Local authorities will also receive their high needs budgets and should continue to pay top-up and other high needs funding to schools. Schools should pay top-up or other funding for pupils in alternative provision (AP) or for SEND or AP services. Where placements and services have not been agreed for the summer term, schools should fund these on the same terms as before.
The DfE has today published further guidance which confirms that it will provide additional funding for maintained schools and academies (whether mainstream, special, alternative provision, hospital, all-through or 16-19) that remain open and who have or will face legitimate additional costs due to Covid-19 by taking necessary measures. The funding will cover costs in keeping premises open during Easter and/or Summer half term holidays, providing free school meals (where not covered by the national voucher scheme) and carrying out additional cleaning due to confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases.
Mainstream schools and academies can claim for these costs up to the following limits.
- £25,000 (250 pupils or fewer)
- £30,000 (251-500 pupils)
- £50,000 (501-1,000 pupils)
- £75,000 (over 1,000 pupils)
Special schools and alternative provision can claim for these costs up to £50,000.
The DfE will not ask for detailed supporting information at the time of the claim. However, schools and academies should hold a record of what has been covered by the additional funds and will need to identify the additional funding and expenditure in their accounts. The DfE can also carry out an audit and clawback the funding where claims are not made in accordance with the guidance.
Where schools and academies can't make up-front payments to cover additional costs because of cash flow issues, schools should contact their local authority and academies should contact the ESFA to seek short-term advances.
If schools and academies face other 'extraordinary costs' that can't be met from existing budgets, they should contact DfE.CoronavirusHelpline@education.gov.uk. However, the DfE will not fund additional costs where a local authority changes the SEND provision under an EHCP. Where schools and academies face unavoidable staffing costs once they've considered a rota system and time off in lieu to cover holidays, staffing support from their local authority or academy trust and using their supply budget, they should discuss this with their Regional Schools Commissioner.
The additional DfE funding announced today for schools and academies to cover their legitimate additional costs due to Covid-19 is welcome. What is needed, though, is a clear mechanism for claiming these costs and more support for those schools and academies which, due to their high staff/student ratio or high level of staff absence, will be unable to cover the additional costs from existing staff or financial resources at a time when finances were already tight before Covid-19 struck.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Graham Shaw or any other member of the Education team on 0113 244 6100.
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The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors