Conservative leadership hopeful Boris Johnson’s claim that school funding in England involves "shocking educational disparities" was rebutted today by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
Writing in his column in the Daily Telegraph earlier this month, Johnson claimed the Brexit vote had proven some regions of the UK were "left behind", stating: “It is simply not sustainable that funding per pupil should be £6800 in parts of London and £4200 in some other parts of the country.”
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The IFS points out that no such postcode lottery exists. The Department for Education introduced a new funding formula for schools from April 2018, allocating funds to England’s local authorities based on levels of need and cost.
Mr Johnson was, therefore, part of a government that ended a form of postcode lottery in school funding.
There are some differences in funding per pupil throughout England, the IFS acknowledged, as local authorities receive higher levels of funding if they serve socially deprived areas, or if they have to pay staff salaries based on London weighting.
The thinktank says that any attempt to decrease funding differences between local authorities would be likely to reduce funds for the most disadvantaged pupils, as well as for London weighting.
Mr Johnson also committed to a minimum level of funding for individual secondary schools in England of £5,000 per pupil. The national funding formula already has a minimum spend of £4,800 per pupil, so the cost of an increase to £5,000 would be "relatively small", the IFS said.
It is also unclear whether Mr Johnson would make the £5,000 minimum a legal requirement.
Many of the Conservative leadership contenders have promised funding increases for the education budget. On 2 June, Michael Gove pledged to raise spending per pupil back to 2015 levels.
Responding to comments about whether the candidates were stealing his clothes regarding promises on school funding, education secretary Damian Hinds praised the fact that education had been a key part of the leadership debate.
Mr Hinds said: “I think it’s a good thing that education has been such a prominent topic in the leadership debates in the wider sense.”
“I have been, will and am now making the case for investment in education because education has, I think, a unique role in our whole public policy arena in terms of its reach, its stretch, and the number of other things it affects: social cohesion, social mobility, helping the places left behind, but also improving our productivity.
“I think it’s great that that’s been such a prominent topic of discussion during this leadership times.”