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Stat of the Week - Estimated spending per pupil in 2010-11

Even before the expenditure cuts that are expected to follow on from the next general election, whoever wins, growth in spending on schools is set to slow down sharply during the next few years.

Labour's record since 1997 was of two years of prudence, followed by 11 years of sharply increased funding that took the average revenue spent per pupil from Pounds 3,070 in 1999-2000 to a projected Pounds 5,120 in the current financial year, and some Pounds 30 higher next year.

The Government's real term index, which does not take into consideration rates of inflation, rose from a base of 100 in Labour's first year in office, to a projected 180 this year and 181 next year.

How sharply the brakes have been applied, even before the present crisis hit the economy, is shown by the fact that the index rose 31 points during the five years between 2002-03 and 2006-07, with 15 points of that rise being between 2005-06 and the estimated out-turn for 2007-08. However, between 2008-09 and 2010-11 the rise is projected to be only five points.

Does this matter much? With salaries accounting for such a large percentage of a school's budget, any slowdown in spending will hurt schools with deficit budgets, those where many teachers are being paid increments as well as any annual cost-of-living increases, and those in parts of the country that do less well out of any funding allocations to local authorities.

For teachers, there are likely to be fewer available posts with additional teaching and learning responsibilities, and it may become harder to progress on the upper pay spine.

John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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