Financial analysis paints bleak picture for future of school funding

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

The cost of reversing the real-terms cuts to school funding for pupils aged five to 16 would be as much as £3.8 billion, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said.

Previous IFS analysis shows that per-pupil funding allocated directly to schools fell by four per cent in real-terms between 2015/16 and 2017/18. Meanwhile, total school spending per-pupil, including sixth form and local authority spending, fell by eight per cent in real-terms between 2009/10 and 2017/18.

Ahead of the Spending Review, which is expected at some point this autumn, the IFS has published a new analysis showing that it would cost the government £3.8 billion to reverse the eight per cent cut and £1.8 billion to reverse the four per cent cut.

If ministers wanted to then protect spending per-pupil in real terms until 2022/23 – the expected duration of the Spending Review – it will cost an additional £1 billion.

However, the prospects for this kind of funding injection look bleak. The IFS says that government plans as set out in the 2018 Budget “imply a £2.5 billion reduction in departmental spending outside of health between 2019/20 and 2022/23”.

Its analysis adds: “Extra schools or education spending could therefore only be funded through deeper cuts to other areas of spending, higher taxes or higher borrowing.”

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the analysis has highlighted “the scale of cuts to school budgets over the last 10 years”.

She added: “The IFS analysis should be a wake-up call to all politicians that there is an urgent funding crisis in our schools and that not only do schools need an immediate injection of funds, but also a long-term plan to allow them to fix their finances.

“The analysis is right to warn that plans for the Spending Review set out in the 2018 Budget imply further cuts to schools in the years to come.”

Further information

Extra spending on education in England – the numbers explained, IFS, June 2019: www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14194


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