“Every school in England will experience cuts in real per pupil funding over the next three years”by David Laws / March 22, 2017 / Leave a comment
Over recent weeks, alongside a divisive debate about the return of grammar schools, there has been increasing public debate and media coverage about potential cuts to the budgets of schools in England. Almost all newspapers and other media outlets have had extensive coverage about opposition to the government’s proposed funding deal for schools.
A report last week by the Education Policy Institute shed light on what the proposed changes are, and what impacts there are likely to be.
It’s important to understand that two quite separate developments are behind these stories about school budgets—one relates to the government’s decision to introduce a new, “fairer” funding system for schools, from 2018 onwards. The second development relates to the implications for school budgets of general cost pressures for schools expected over the next few years.
Our Institute found, strikingly, that after these two sets of changes, every school in England will experience cuts in real per pupil funding over the next three years. In other words, even schools which are supposed to gain from the new funding formula will see their real budgets contract because of the other cuts and cost pressures. Around half of primary and secondary schools will be faced with real cuts in per pupil funding of between 6 and 11 per cent by 2019/20.
For the average primary school in England, these pressures are equivalent to losing around £74,000 in real terms (around the budget for two teachers), and for the average secondary school the loss would be around £291,000 (around the budget for six teachers). It is not the case that exactly this number of staff per school will be lost—some schools will cushion their funding pressures by using existing cash reserves. Other schools might be “bailed out” by experiencing rising pupil numbers. But the next few years will represent the toughest for school budgets for at least 20 years.
For some schools, a major part of the budget pressure comes from the new funding formula. This is designed to ensure that a pupil with the same characteristics receives the same amount of funding wherever he or she is being educated in England (leaving aside that schools in areas such as London receive higher funding to cover higher staff costs). You might think that we would already be funding pupils consistently in this way—but this…