Emergency coronavirus funding: Schools must wait until June

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Schools will find out in June how they can apply for government funding to cover additional costs resulting from the coronavirus lockdown.

Until this point, additional costs must be met from existing budgets and recorded in line with local finance policies.

The approach has been set out in new guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).

It confirms that funding will be available for “specific costs” created by the coronavirus crisis. These are detailed as increased premises-related costs (including keeping schools open during Easter), support for free school meals (FSM) provision for children not attending school, and additional cleaning costs.

The funding will be available to “schools that are unable to meet such additional costs from their existing resources, or which they could only meet by drawing down on reserves and undermining their long-term financial sustainability”.

However, the guidance warns that the DfE does not expect schools to make a claim against this funding “if they are anticipating that they will be able to add to their reserves in the 2020/21 financial year”. Further detail of what this will mean in practice has not been provided.

The guidance adds: “In June, we will publish further guidance for schools on the process for informing us of any additional costs relating to coronavirus. We understand the significant challenges schools are facing at present and will therefore make the process for reporting this information as simple as possible. We will then make payments – direct to academies, or to local authorities to pass onto their schools – to reimburse schools for costs they apply for up to the limits set out.”

The funding is limited depending on pupil numbers:

  • Mainstream schools with 250 pupils or fewer: £25,000.
  • Mainstream schools with 251 to 500 pupils: £30,000.
  • Mainstream schools with 501 to 1,000 pupils: £50,000.
  • Mainstream schools with more than 1,000 pupils: £75,000.
  • Special schools or alternative provision: £50,000.

The guidance adds: “There may be some exceptional instances where individual schools will face additional costs that are higher than these limits. In these circumstances, schools will be able to make a case for increasing the limit when they submit a claim for additional funding.”

Any schools struggling to make payments now or before the process for application is confirmed in June should follow normal procedures and seek support from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

The National Association of Head Teachers has welcomed the guidance as a “helpful starting point”, but says more detail is urgently needed. General secretary Paul Whiteman explained: “We need more detail about how this will work in practice. Schools will need reassurance that the full range of additional costs from staffing to free school meals will be covered by the scheme. The government is asking a lot of schools and it is only fair that the additional costs are covered as they have been in other areas of the economy.

“Schools are already in the midst of a financial crisis and so the crucial work to support children and families at this time has to be properly funded. As with other frontline services it has to be clear that schools will get all that they need to do the job, without compromise. As a matter of urgency, we will now be seeking clarity from the government regarding the detail of this scheme to ensure that there are no unreasonable restrictions and that the full range of additional costs are covered.”

The Association of School and College Leaders has also warned about the impact of other lost income for schools, such as hiring out facilities. Julia Harnden, its funding specialist, said: “Schools obviously run on very tight budgets so it will give them reassurance that they will be able to recover the extra expenditure necessitated by this health crisis. However, the package does not cover the loss of income which many schools earn from activities such as hiring out facilities. This can be quite a significant element of their finances. We are concerned about the impact this will have on budgets and we are continuing to discuss with the government how this might be addressed.”

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