FIFTY-SEVEN pupils have cost the county £245k in schools funding over the coming financial year.

Papers prepared for the county's schools forum show Herefordshire Council's provisional 2014-15 direct schools grant (DSG) is 57 pupils less than forecast.

This, the papers say, is "mainly due" to increased pupil numbers at the two free schools: the Robert Owen Vocational School (28 pupils) and St Mary's Primary, Dilwyn (29 pupils).

The Department for Education (DfE)  has reduced the DSG by £245k - the total for the 57 free school pupils at a funding rate of £4,306 per pupil. Schools forum was told that further cuts in DSG can be expected if pupil numbers in the free schools increase in future.

A  total 2014/15 DSG settlement of £110,683 - with a specific schools block of  nearly £91m - was announced just before Christmas based on 21,107 pupils or up 47 on 2013/14 and the equivalent to an extra £202k.

However, a shortfall of £232k has arisen due to an additional 228 pupils entitled to free schools meals, which has increased  the cost by £560k, and a reduction of 50 pupils compared with the DSG forecast, which has cut income by £215k.

The shortfall exists even given the full use of  a £485k underspend the DSG for 2011/12 which academies and free schools are now entitled to share in.

Schools forum has previously seen the underspend as an assist to to schools with deficits, an option that supporting the 2014/15 shortfall rules out.

The forum recommended a series of changes to various schools funding values to reflect the budget situation.

Herefordshire is the 38th worst off  education authority in the country, with funding per pupil some £244 less than the national average.

Councillor Jeremy Millar, cabinet member for children's wellbeing, was at Westminster this week with representatives of the f40 group representing council's with the poorest funded schools in England and fighting for fairer funding.