IFS: School buildings cash won't reverse decade of cuts

Exclusive: Government's extra £1bn for school buildings leaves capital funding 'well below' 2010 levels, says economist

Charlotte Santry

Schools in disrepair: Teachers' concerns about the state of school buildings have been revealed in a NEU teaching union survey

The extra £1 billion being spent on school buildings still leaves funding "well below" 2010 levels, according to a respected education economist.

The building scheme, described by prime minister Boris Johnson as a "major new investment", will begin in 2020-21 with the first 50 projects targeted towards areas where school building conditions are worst, including in the North and the Midlands.

But the investment follows years of real-terms cuts to the capital spending budget, the main pot of money that funds big school building projects.

Luke Sibieta, a research fellow at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, calculates that if the £1 billion were added to next year's capital spending budget for schools, this would only take funding back to 2015-16 levels.

News: Decade of school rebuilding starts with £1bn for 20/21

Related: Half of teachers say school buildings unfit for purpose

Background: Billions needed to restore school buildings to 'satisfactory' condition, warns watchdog

He said: "Following a £500 million cut in the education capital budget in 2020, capital spending was about one third lower in real terms in 2020 than it was over a decade earlier in 2008.

"If the government managed to focus all the extra £1 billion on 2021, that would equate to just over 20 per cent of planned spending for this year.

"Whilst this is a significant sum, it would still only be sufficient to take spending back to 2015-16 levels and would still be well below its high point around 2010."

A National Audit Office report three years ago found at least £6.7 billion was needed to restore all school buildings to a satisfactory condition. Heads say conditions have worsened in the meantime. 

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Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry

Charlotte Santry is deputy news editor at Tes

Find me on Twitter @CharlotteSantry

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