Justine Greening has pledged an extra £1.3bn over two years. £2bn a year is needed simply to reverse real-terms cuts since 2015by Valentine Mulholland / July 18, 2017 / Leave a comment
Education Secretary Justine Greening. Photo: David Mirzoeff/PA Wire/PA Images Yesterday, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening announced in parliament extra funding for schools over the next two years—to be precise, £1.3bn more than the “schools settlement” agreed in the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review. There is no new funding for the coming academic year, which begins in September. But there is more funding from April 2018: £416m extra for 2018/19 and £884m for 2019/20. After that, there’s the promise of a new funding review, with the hope that more money will follow. £1.3bn over two years is a step in the right direction—but this is considerably less than the additional £2bn a year needed to reverse the real terms cuts that have hit schools since 2015. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies’ analysis is that the government’s offer represents a real-terms freeze on school budgets for the next two years. Clearly the Secretary of State has been listening to complaints, but what’s clear is that the Treasury hasn’t been. There is no new money here from them, simply a repurposing of the Department for Education’s budgets: £315m of the new funding will come from forecast income from “sugar tax” programmes; £280m from the free schools programme; £250m from the DfE’s central programmes. In her speech, Greening also put a big focus on securing efficiencies in schools. I don’t think the government understands the extent to which the funding crisis has already wrung potential efficiencies from school budgets. Schools will try everything before they reduce pupil contact with a teacher or classroom assistant—the fact that we’ve seen so many redundancies this year is a testament to the fact that schools have run out of options. The government also confirmed yesterday that the new national funding formula—which redistributes money from well-funded to under-funded schools—will go ahead from April 2018. My union, the National Association of Head Teachers, has been campaigning for this over a number of years so we welcomed the commitment. It will offer a real lifeline to many individual schools as well as to many high-needs students. But there’s a problem. The DfE will not bring in new legislation to ensure that the funding goes straight to certain schools from 2018. Rather for the first two years, the funding each school needs will be worked out at a school level by the DfE, rightly based on the characteristics of the pupils in each school, but will then be handed to local authorities. They will then have the final say based on their own local formulae. So whilst we will have one formula for setting the funding, we will continue to have 152 local formulae for getting it to schools and academies. The concern is that this replicates the existing unfairness in school funding that a national formula was intended to address. It could also undermine the conservative manifesto promise that no school will lose out in cash per pupil terms under the national funding formula: local authority decisions may mean that some schools do not see their fair share. A real national funding formula, one that goes directly to schools, is an urgent priority. Greening also confirmed that funding for high-needs pupils will be increased so that all local authorities will receive at least 0.5 per cent more, with some receiving up to 3 per cent—as originally set out in the high-needs formula proposals. The detail of the funding allocation for each school from April 2018 will be published in the autumn and the full picture will be clearer then. But it’s already clear that yesterday’s announcement isn’t enough to protect education and we need to keep driving the message home to the Chancellor that he must dig deeper.