School pupil spend suffers 'largest cut in 40 years'

School spending per pupil in 2022–23 would be no higher in real terms than in 2009–10, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found

Claudia Civinini

largest cut

School spending per pupil in England fell by 9 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-20, a new analysis found.

Although these cuts come on the back of a significant increase in spending per pupil during the 2000s, this is still the largest cut in 40 years, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found.

Recent cuts, the report explains, have mainly been driven by a reduction to sixth-form funding and reductions in the spending role of local authorities.


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Cuts are evident in secondary school, where spending per pupil fell by 9 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-20, partly reflecting cuts of over 25 per cent to sixth-form funding per student, according to the IFS analysis, which also shows that spending per pupil has risen by 4 per cent in primary schools.

Results are similar whether they are compared against inflation or school-specific cost changes over the last decade.

Although the government has allocated an extra £7.1 billion for schools in England through to 2022-23, this will not solve the situation and in real terms, school spending per pupil in 2022-23 will be no higher than in 2009-10, the report explains.

The extra funding will increase spending per pupil by 9 per cent in real terms between 2019-20 and 2022-23 – however, if increases in teachers' pay are taken into account, the real-terms increase will be lower, at 6 per cent.

Schools in more deprived areas will be particularly hit by falls in spending per pupils, the report shows.

Teachers and headteachers' unions have reacted with anger at the report's findings.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is a desperate situation and the government has its head buried in the sand.

“Schools know only too well the realities of real-terms funding cuts, and it is shameful that those serving deprived communities have been particularly badly affected. On the ground, this translates into cuts to the curriculum, and larger class sizes.

“The financial situation in schools and colleges is made worse by the fact that the government has so far refused to reimburse the significant costs that have been incurred in putting in place Covid safety measures in order to reopen this term, such as enhanced cleaning, hand sanitisers, signage, and supply cover when teachers have to self-isolate.

“This will put even more strain on budgets which are at breaking point and mean that schools and colleges have less money to spend on educational provision."

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: "This comprehensive report makes sobering reading and the government must invest significant sums not just to reverse cuts to education but also to allow schools to cut class sizes which are amongst the highest in Europe. There are now a million children educated in classes with more than 30 pupils in England.

"Children only get one chance to go to school, a whole generation of pupils have had the whole of their time in school blighted by cuts." 

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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