New money for schools to buy one-off “little extras” is instead being used by some to help pay off deficits, new research has found.
Chancellor Philip Hammond provoked anger and derision when he used the phrase to describe the additional £400 million of funding allocated in last October’s Budget.
He said the funding – an average of £10,000 for primary schools and £50,000 for secondaries – could be used for items such as whiteboards or laptops.
Now, a survey of 930 schools for the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa) has shown that less than half (42 per cent) are allocating the money to specific areas of capital spending.
It found that a quarter (25 per cent) are saving the money or using it to reduce their deficit, while 16 per cent said it would end up as part of general funding.
17 per cent of the schools said they were undecided.
Patrick Hayes, director of Besa, told Tes that most of the money for “little extras” was “absolutely not” being spent on what the chancellor had intended.
“It’s very clear that school budgets are already massively over-stretched and schools are, unfortunately, spending in a way that’s unsustainable and drawing upon reserves,” he said.
“This capital expenditure that they have given schools, unfortunately, is being used in order to keep schools financially sustainable for another year, rather than in the way that it is intended.
“It goes to show that even when money is made available for a specific thing, which is educational equipment in this instance, actually schools are unable to do that just because they are facing such a turbulent time when it comes to their own finances that they have to basically disobey government instructions on this and put this money to one side just in order to keep afloat.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “The report findings are misleading as we have not yet published our final official allocations and we do not recognise the level of additional funding for schools used in the analysis.
“The £400 million additional funding is for schools to spend on small capital projects to meet their own priorities, such as improving buildings or facilities.
“While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more.
"We have put an additional £1.3 billion into core schools funding over and above plans set out at the last spending review.”