Headteachers have reacted with dismay to news that the “fast-track” government spending review will not deliver more money for schools before September 2020.
Boris Johnson made key pledges to increase school funding during his campaign for the Conservative Party leadership, which he repeated during his first Commons appearance as prime minister.
The government last night announced that it plans to complete a “fast-track” spending review in September, which will cover one year and support Mr Johnson’s “ambition” for additional funding for schools.
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However, the Treasury told Tes that school funding for the academic year starting in September 2019 had already been set, and the spending review would not provide additional funding for schools before September 2020.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT heads' union, said: “Schools and colleges desperately need an immediate multi-billion-pound emergency investment, as well as a long-term commitment to education funding.
"School leaders will be dismayed that the remit of this fast-track spending review leaves no scope for an immediate investment in schools and colleges
'U-turns' over school funding
“Parents and pupils will feel cheated by this approach after being told that education spending is a priority. The perilous state of our schools is all too obvious to them, even if it is not obvious to politicians in Westminster.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said heads were “weary and frustrated by the constant rumours, hints and U-turns by the government over education funding”.
He added: “What’s needed now is a clear acknowledgement that current funding levels for education are inadequate, an immediate and significant uplift for the coming year, and then proper long-term commitment to funding our education system properly so that leaders can concentrate on educational issues rather than planning further cuts and redundancies that are damaging standards.”
Jonathan Simons, a former Treasury and Downing Street adviser who now works for the Public First public affairs firm, tweeted that the news was “understandably frustrating for schools (and FE)”.
He said: “The good thing is that this creates more time for DfE to consider the best elements for their bid into HMT [Her Majesty’s Treasury] in a slightly more reasonable timescale.
"Prep for a proper SR [spending review] is huge and consumes a lot of departmental focus to ensure value for money and prioritisation of spend.”
However, he added that “it is by no means impossible that the SR announcement in the Autumn includes a super special secret Brucey bonus for edu or other areas, kicking in immediately in the 19/20 financial year”.
In his 2018 Budget, Philip Hammond, chancellor at the time, was heavily criticised after allocating £400 million as an “in-year bonus to help our schools buy the little extras they need”.
Mr Simons tweeted that giving schools extra money part-way through a year is not efficient “because schools will have budgeted from [September], so a mid-year splurge of cash can’t be spent on staff, which is probably what most want more cash to do”.