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Public spending on children: 5 key findings

Commissioner examines how the government spends public money on children

New money on how public money is spent on children

Commissioner examines how the government spends public money on children

The children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield has produced a report today breaking down how much public money is being spent on children and in which areas.

Here are five important findings from her report:

1. Per-pupil funding for schools was falling before it was frozen

The report assesses spending over 10 and 20 year periods. It says that spending per pupil has “largely been maintained” over the course of this decade.

However, it notes that funding per-pupil rose under the coalition but then fell up to 2017-18.

It says per-pupil funding at secondary school is expected to reach £6,200 per pupil by 2019-20, 3 per cent lower than it was in 2011-12. The report notes that it has been frozen until 2020.

During the 2000s, per-pupil funding increased by 50 per cent.  

2. Public spending on children is 10 per cent lower than it was a decade ago

The report reveals that £10,000 is now spent across the government  per child each year – a total of more than £120 billion.

This figure is 42 per cent higher in real terms than in 2000-01, but 10 per cent lower than in 2010-11.

These figures do not include health are due to a lack of available data – something Ms Longfield highlighted as a concern.

3. Post-16 education is funded at the same level as in the late 1980s

The area identified as having the lowest drop in education funding is post 16 – affecting sixth forms and further education. The report estimates it has faced a 15 to 20 per cent cut over the 2010s.

The report says these cuts will mean per-pupil spending on 16-to-18 education is at the same level it was 30 years ago.

It describes the lack of a real-term increase in funding over that length of time as “remarkable” and said it would inevitably leaves resources squeezed.

4. High Needs funding is under intense pressure.

The report highlights the growing pressures on "high needs" education budgets, used to support pupil with additional needs.

It shows how more children than ever are now attending specialist high-needs institutions.

The numbers of pupils in maintained special schools increased by 25 per cent between 2007 and 2017. The increase is largely driven by a huge rise in the numbers of children with autism in maintained special schools (up by more than 50 per cent between 2012 and 2017).

5. The cost of care is unsustainable and services are being cut as a result

One of the main findings of the report is that half of the £8.6 billion children’s services budget is now spent on 73,000 children in the care system – leaving the remaining half to cover 11.7 million children.

The report notes that overall children’s services spending has been frozen since 2009-10 and spending on preventative support such as Sure Start has been cut by around 60 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2016-17.

Ms Longfield warns that the situation is not sustainable and suggests millions of vulnerable children who are not entitled to statutory support will be missing out because of the huge cost of helping a small number of children who are in crisis.

“While every child should receive the support they need, the economic and social costs of this current strategy are unsustainable. The cost to the state is ultimately greater than it should be and the cost to those vulnerable children missing out on support will last a lifetime,” she said.

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