Why not begin the New Year with a topic you are likely to be hearing a lot more about in the coming months: school funding.
When Father Christmas crept down the chimney just a few short weeks ago to leave the presents my expectations were admittedly low. After a full 12 months of excited and anxious waiting what Santa Claus brought this year were gifts in the form of government proposals for a new national funding formula for schools (NFF).
Now this is neither a letter of despair or an impassioned cry for help but a calm statement of the facts from which readers can draw your own conclusions.
School funding has remained frozen now over an extended number of years, apart from post-16 ie Sixth Form, which has borne the brunt of the cutbacks. So taking into account rising inflation and increasing employer staff costs to cover pay, pension and national insurance contributions, the “pot” that a school has to provide for pupils’ education has shrunk year on year.
There is little sign of this situation changing any time soon and so this really is not a complaint. That would be futile, taking time and energy away from the real job of squeezing out more from less, and might lead some to feel that we should simply stop moaning and get on with it. Quite.
There is nothing wrong in devising a new funding formula and applying it uniformly across all local areas. No doubt over time iniquities grow up and unjustifiable disparities become established which, if not addressed, leads to unfairness.
All schools received from Santa a forecast of the impact on their funding. The new formula is out for consultation but, trust me, there will be but the tiniest of changes. The work has been done and in great detail. The principles established are no doubt sound; the logic indisputable.
The impact is variable across the country and significantly so. In Leighton Buzzard and Linslade, broadly for our lower schools the impact is helpful with increases of up to 12.8%. For middle and upper schools the picture is more gloomy with decreases in funding for all 5 middles and both uppers of up to 2.8%.
How each middle and upper school will cope with this further reduction in funds is for each to work out and much head scratching will be under way. It will not be painless. Welcome to 2017.