An extra £12.6 billion in school funding is needed over the next four years to reverse cuts that have “caused so much damage to schools and colleges,” a coalition of the nation's major education unions has said.
The unions have proposed a phased implementation plan, with the £3bn one-year boost reportedly being considered by Theresa May as her legacy as “a starting point” (see table, below).
The coalition is made up of the NEU, the Association of School and College Leaders and the NAHT headteachers’ union, which have teamed up together with the F40 fair-funding for education campaign group, made up of 42 local authorities that are among the lowest funded for education in England.
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NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “We’ve come up with a figure, a sum of money that is urgently needed if we are to stem the tide of cuts and fully fund education.
“We will be taking that figure to politicians of all parties to press our case for the investment our schools desperately need.”
The figures is based on a complete assessment of the amount of funding needed across early years, primary and secondary schools, 16-19 education, and high needs up to the age of 25, in order to reverse real-terms cuts that, the unions said, "have devastated the education sector over the past few years."
ASCL has also carried out its own analysis, in which it proposes an additional investment of £5.4 billion over the following two years, from 2023-24 to 2024-25, to meet the basic expectation on schools and ensure that every child is taught by a qualified teacher in classes of no more than 30 pupils.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “There are no political games going on here where we pitch high in the hope that the government will meet us part way.
“This is a rigorous and reasonable analysis of the funding required to reverse real-terms cuts and provide schools and colleges with enough money to deliver the standard of education society expects of them.
“The fact that so much more money is needed is not a case of us being unrealistic, but a reflection of the totally inadequate level of funding currently provided by the government. Education should be seen as a vital strategic investment in our children and in our country.”
The coalition highlights how cuts have caused “immense damage” including the huge pressure on funding for children with special educational needs which has resulted in legal challenges to the government by parents.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “Everyone, including ministers, agrees that school budgets are at breaking point. There is also widespread agreement that it is only new money from the Treasury that will solve the school funding crisis.
“There are many ways to calculate how much more schools and colleges need to receive; the two fundamentals though are immediate short-term relief, to make up for what schools and colleges have lost, and a long-term commitment to sufficient funding in the future.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “School funding in England is at its highest ever level and since 2017 we have given every local authority more money for every 5 to 16 year old in every school. While we recognise that there are budgeting challenges, the government is investing more than ever before in early education and childcare and since 2010 the overall core schools budget for 5 to 16 year olds has been protected in real terms.
“The Education Secretary has set out his determination to work with the sector to help ensure that every pound is spent as effectively as possible to give children a great education. He has also made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back the education sector to have the resources they need to deliver a world class education.”