Government to ‘miss school spending pledge’ as costs soar

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak said the government would restore per-pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms, but experts say this is no longer on track
2nd August 2022, 12:01am

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Government to ‘miss school spending pledge’ as costs soar

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/government-miss-school-spending-pledge-costs-soar
Heads Have Reacted With Dismay After The Treasury Said The Spending Review Would Not Deliver New Money To Schools Before September 2020

The government is no longer on track to deliver on its pledge to restore per pupil spending to 2010 levels in real-terms by the end of this Parliament, according to experts.

Speaking last year as chancellor, Rishi Sunak said that schools would get an extra £4.7 billion by 2024-25, which, combined with plans announced at the spending review in 2019, would restore per-pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms.

But the latest analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that spending per pupil in 2024 will remain 3 per cent below 2010 levels, accounting for actual costs faced by schools.

The IFS said schools faced a range of cost increases, including rises in teacher and support staff pay, as well as in food and energy prices.

It said it expected schools’ costs to grow by 6 per cent in 2022-23, estimating that teacher pay costs will rise by 4 per cent in 2022-23, allowing for the effects of last year’s pay freeze, the 5.4 per cent average increase in teacher salaries in September 2022 and changes to National Insurance rates.

And there will be increases in the average cost of support staff of at least 9 per cent, while rising energy and food prices are driving an increase in consumer price index inflation, which seems likely to further increase non-staffing costs, the researchers have said.

Luke Sibieta, IFS research fellow, said the cost increases looked ”just about” affordable in 2022-23, as overall growth in funding per pupil is relatively high this year (7.7 per cent) and is still likely to be above growth in school costs (6 per cent).

“Next year looks much more problematic, however, with growth in funding per pupil expected to fall below growth in school costs,” he said.

“Indeed, the fast rises in school costs will reduce school budgets’ purchasing power and leave spending per pupil in 2024 still about 3 per cent lower in real terms than in 2010.”

The big fiscal choice for policymakers this autumn, he said, is whether or not to provide more funding to public services to compensate for rising costs and the significant challenges they face.

He said: “It will be that much harder for schools to meaningfully contribute to levelling-up ambitions when they face real-terms cuts from next year onwards.”

Mr Sibieta added that schools that rely more on support staff, such as special schools, will also likely see a faster growth in costs, as previously highlighted by Tes.

School leaders at special schools have warned that they are on a “fast track to unviability”, as the latest staff pay awards will “disproportionately” hit them.

Julia Harnden, funding specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was a “very poor reflection” of the government’s priorities that it will have presided over a “15-year decline” in school funding by the end of the Parliament.

She added: “While it may argue that there are inflationary pressures beyond its control, the fact is that it is the government itself which has proposed a teachers’ pay award for September, without providing any additional funding for schools to afford these costs, and it has also consistently ignored our repeated warnings about the impact of soaring energy costs.

“The government simply must respond by ensuring that schools and colleges have the funding they require to at least maintain provision and, if the government is serious about raising pupil attainment, it must provide the resources that are needed to make that ambition achievable.”

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment.

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