Schoolzone blog: Five years of under-funding in prospect?

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08 May 2015

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The Lib-Dem departure from government is bad news for school funding. Before he left, David Laws estimated the total education cut will be over £13billion.

David Cameron promised that the amount of funding per pupil will stay the same next year and notes that, since pupil numbers are on the rise, schools will in effect have more money.


The Conservative manifesto also promised to "create at least 500 new free schools in England by 2020 by investing £18 billion". That's £18 billion lost from existing schools.

Then there's "nurseries and childminders are to receive £300 for every 3- and 4-year-old from a low-income family". Again, coming from the education budget.

But we'll have a "£3.5 million fund designed to place character education on a par with academic learning for pupils across the country". So, time to work character education into your schemes of work if you want a slice of the cash? No: if it's spent like the Pupil Premium funding, it will just be absorbed into the pot, along with everything else.

Talking of PP funding - that was a Lib Dem deal. Our newly elected Tory MP, Alex Chalk, told our school education debate that he would "die in the ditch" to see funds redistributed from inner London boroughs towards the leafy shires because PP funding means that they are receiving an unfair amount of cash (not because they are Labour controlled). So it's unlikely that PP funding will outlast this new government.

The teachers pay deal last year awarded a 1% rise which, with the additional NI contributions and pensions liabilities (for non-teaching staff) amounts to more like 1.5%. Performance related pay puts pressure on schools to award at least this amount, since by not doing so implies that teachers' performance is somehow below what's expected, so this could put the average increase up to more like 2%. This alone leaves a shortfall across all schools of around £320 million. Then there's inflation which, at around 1% will 'cost' another £230 million, bringing the shortfall to £550 million.

In fact the number of pupils is increasing in the primary phase (with around 100,000 additional pupils joining per year), but at secondary level, numbers don't start to rise until 2017. Additional primary numbers will bring in about £400million to that phase, but secondary schools will be around £300million short. And that's just looking at these simple measures.

Then of course, there's sixth form funding. the Tories haven't mentioned this: school sixth forms are facing a 5% cut in the new 16-19 funding formula. This is on top of recent cuts to sixth form funding means that where, in previous years sixth forms subsidised 11 - 16, now it's the other way round and sixth forms are already warning of reductions in the range of courses offered.

Cameron promised extra funding for the NHS - £8billion over the next five years - which, given his promise to cut public sector funding leaves even less for education. David Laws' estimate may have been too low.

So, a grim five years ahead.



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