The government has closed a flagship school improvement programme, without spending £84 million of the money it initially allocated to the fund.
When the Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) was launched by then-education secretary Justine Greening in 2016, it was billed as coming with £140 million of funding.
However, the DfE today said it has closed the fund, with only £56 million awarded to a total of 171 projects over three rounds of funding.
That means that 60 per cent of the original funding has not been spent on the SSIF.
Last week, Tes reported on growing speculation that the DfE would use money earmarked for school improvement work to help fund a pay rise for teachers after the Treasury refused to allocate additional money.
But today, the DfE today told Tes that the SSIF funding was not being re-prioritised to pay for the teacher pay award.
The DfE announced last Tuesday that it would fund a pay rise of 1.5 to 3.5 per cent for teachers and school leaders from within its existing funding. Although it did not set out in detail where the money had come from, it told Tes that it was not cutting any existing programmes.
When she launched the school improvement fund, Ms Greening said she said she wanted it “to not only transform outcomes for children by improving schools but also to make sure our school-led system learns from that work”.
But in a statement posted online today, the DfE said: “The Strategic School Improvement Fund is now closed. There will be no further application rounds. We are currently reviewing arrangements for school improvement support and will announce details of future arrangements in due course.”
It added that applications for emergency funding under the Strategic School Improvement Fund were still allowed. Today, the government also announced the results of the final round of bids.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “School leaders will be concerned to see that the government has closed the Strategic School Improvement Fund.
"This is a fund which, in the government’s own words, ‘targeted resources at the schools most in need to improve school performance and pupil attainment’.
“There are plenty of schools ‘most in need’ at the moment. School budgets are at breaking point, as government funding fails to keep pace with additional costs and inflationary pressures.
"Many school leaders have put a lot of work into School Improvement Fund bids, seeing it as a potential lifeline.
“School improvement, and improving the lives of disadvantaged children, costs money. We can only hope that the government has better plans for the money it is saving here, and that it does still use it to improve our children’s futures.”