It claims funding has increased—this is true only in the hollowest senseby Kevin Courtney / April 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
One of the first things that Damian Hinds told parliament as Education Secretary was this: “There is more money going into our schools in this country than ever before.” As we know, this has long been the government line. Yet schools are under more pressure than ever and teachers have been vocal about that. So who’s right?
Well, if Hinds had stopped there, then technically he would have been correct. Unfortunately for him, he went on to try and explain what that statement actually means. Getting his briefing wrong, he was obliged by the UK Statistics Authority to withdraw what he’d said and also exposed the true facts on school funding.
The problem came when Hinds told MPs that “We know that real-terms funding per pupil is increasing across the system and, with the national funding formula, each school will see at least a small cash increase.” The trouble was that this certainly isn’t true. School funding is increasing in cash terms, but so is the number of pupils in the system. Funding is indeed at its highest on record in simple cash terms but costs are increasing as well, often faster than funding. The additional costs loaded onto schools have resulted in significant real terms losses across the school system.
The result is that schools’ funding per pupil will, at best, be barely maintained in real terms over the next two years—and this follows a sharp fall since 2015, with some £2.8bn effectively cut from schools’ funding by a combination of a funding freeze and higher employer pension and national insurance contributions imposed by government.
Before the 2017 election, the Institute for Fiscal Studies described the government’s school funding policy as representing the first real terms cuts to school funding since the mid-1990s. Even with an extra £1.3bn for 2018-20, found quickly by a re-elected government shocked by the election result (and taken from elsewhere in the education budget), schools will on average be significantly worse off than in 2015.
Now we’re past that headline of “more money… than ever before,” we can begin to explore what’s actually happening in schools. Recent surveys by the National Education Union and the National Association of Head Teachers have shown the actual impact on education at school level. Class sizes are rising, support staff are being sacked, educational opportunities are…