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School funding cut this year in more than half of local authorities, say Lib Dems

The amount being spent on per pupil funding in many parts of England is lower, in real terms, than it was last year, according to new figures

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More than half of local authorities in England have suffered real terms cuts in per pupil funding this year, according to new research by the House of Commons library commissioned by the Liberal Democrats.

The figures show that 83 out of 150 local authorities have seen the amount being spent this year per pupil fall, year-on-year, once inflation is taken into account.

The reduction across England is 0.65 per cent on average, which works out at a cut of £29 per pupil.

Department for Education figures on planned local authority and school expenditure for 2017-18, using the Treasury’s 2017-18 inflation rate of 1.63 per cent, were used for the analysis of the changes between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The South East is the hardest hit region, with a real terms fall of £131 per pupil (3 per cent).

Future spending

This comes amid mounting criticism of the government’s new national funding formula, due to come into effect from next year.

Teaching unions claim the new formula will not address the £2 billion a year extra that they say will be needed by the end of this decade to ensure schools keep the same level of funding in real terms, that they had in 2015-16.

Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said “Conservative school cuts are putting the futures of young people across the country at risk. After the election, the government promised to protect per pupil funding, but these figures show many areas are still set to lose out in real terms.”

She added, “We are seeing school spending slashed, resulting in a narrowing curriculum and in dedicated, hardworking teachers being forced out of the profession they love.”

Ms Moran said, “Ministers must urgently reverse these damaging cuts and invest to protect school budgets in real-terms."

Calls for action

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said: “How many more reports of school funding cuts does the government have to read before it takes action and reverses the damaging cuts it is inflicting on schools?” She said that the new figures “are part of the £2.8 billion real terms cuts every year that schools have suffered since the 2015 election.”

The additional £1.3 billion in funding for schools over the next two years is welcome, “but it falls far short of the amount needed to reverse those cuts and fund schools adequately for the remainder of this parliament,” according to Dr Bousted.

Government position

A Department for Education spokesperson said “We do not recognise these figures. The National Funding Formula, which will be introduced in 2018, will replace an outdated funding system which saw funding allocated unfairly across the country. Under the new formula every school will be able to gain, with secondary schools set to receive at least £4,800 per pupil by 2019-20.”

They added: “We are investing an additional £1.3 billion in schools funding, over and above existing plans, and – as the independent IFS have said – funding per pupil will now be maintained in real terms up to 2020.”

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