Bulk of £7.1 billion funding injection will disappear with rising costs and teacher pay rises

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

There will only be £14,000 per-school left from the £7.1 billion funding injection once existing government commitments, rising pupil numbers and other costs are paid for.

The schools budget is due to increase by £7.1 billion over the next three years, but new calculations predict that schools will only have £300 million of this to spend on reversing the real-terms cuts of recent years.

The forecast from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is part of the union’s submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget on March 11.

The government has pledged funding increases to the schools budget of £2.6 billionin 2020/21, a further £2.2 billion in 2021/22, and an additional £2.3 billion in 2022/23.

ASCL says that the forecast growth in pupil numbers – from 7.71 million in 2019 to 7.95 million in 2023 – will cost roughly £1 billion, and general inflation a further £2.4 billion.

Furthermore, the recent Department for Education (DfE) proposal to increase teacher starting salaries to £30,000 by 2022/23 will absorb another £2.3 billion.

The DfE has also pledged £780 million to high needs provision and £300 million to “levelling up” the worst-funded schools.

This all adds up to £6.78 billion according to the ASCL calculations, leaving only £300 million, which when divided between the 21,000 state-funded schools in England equates to £14,000 per school.

Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said: “This is nowhere near enough to restore the courses, extra-curricular activities and pupil support services cut since 2015, or to reverse rising class sizes. We are not arguing with the spending commitments made by the government. Our point is that this pot of money is not enough to deliver all the promises it has made and also reverse the education cuts.”

ASCL estimates that a further £1.1 billion is needed to reverse the impact of real-terms cuts to school budgets since 2015 and is asking the government to provide funding for its proposed increase to teacher starting salaries.

It also says that more money is needed for high needs provision to support young people with SEND. The £780 million that has been pledged in 2020/21 is not enough to address the projected £1.2 billion deficit in 2021.

Furthermore, the £7.1 billion is only for five to 16 education and high needs provision. The funding rate for 16 and 17-year-old students – which has been frozen at £4,000 per student per year since 2013 – is to rise to £4,188 per student in 2020/21. However, ASCL is asking for at least £4,760 per student and then further annual rises in line with inflation.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that school spending per-pupil since 2009 has fallen by eight per cent in real terms and that the £7.1 billion “should be near enough sufficient to reverse these cuts by 2022/23”. But this still means that schools will have effectively faced a 13-year funding freeze in school spending per-pupil.


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