Schoolzone blog: What does a standstill budget mean in £s?

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03Feb 2015

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We mentioned previously that schools are facing funding cuts, but David Cameron has 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.

Here's some observations about this, taken from the most recent school performance data.

  • The average per pupil funding across primary and secondary is around £5,500.
  • 75-80% of this is spent on staffing.
  • Schools on average spend 99% of their budgets.

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. David Laws estimated the total education cut to be over £13billion.

Then of course, there's sixth form funding. Cameron didn't mention 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.

So schools do, as Cameron says the whole of the DfE does, face some tough decisions next year. Resource budgets are small anyway (about 4% of spending) and so cuts here will have minimal impact, but staffing will be hit, as will items of higher cost, such as infrastructure improvements.

Schools have been protected so far, during the recession and, while cuts have been assumed to be on the way, this is first time we've had real confirmation that it's true.



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