National Funding Formula: Bleak outlook for per-pupil funding in 2023/24

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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As the cost of living crisis rages and CPI inflation hits 10%, a quarter of England’s secondary schools will see their notional per-pupil funding for 2023/24 increase by less than 1%.

Analysis of the recently published National Funding Formula (NFF) provisional allocations for the schools, high needs and central school services blocks in 2023 to 2024 paints a bleak picture.

The analysis shows that under the NFF’s notional funding for local authorities, 37% of primary schools and 26% of secondary schools will see per-pupil funding increasing by less than 1%.

Meanwhile, only 8% of primary schools and 1% of secondary schools will see their per-pupil income rise by 5% or more.

The analysis has been carried out by the National Education Union (NEU), which is among those lobbying politicians over school funding and teacher pay during the annual party conferences this week and next.

Dr Mary Bousted, NEU joint general secretary, said this week that if nothing is done schools will have no choice but to cut subjects offered on the curriculum, support services within schools, and staff levels.

Under the NFF provisional allocations, which are subject to updated pupil numbers, and which do not take into account any local authority funding formulae, the majority of secondary schools (around 56%) will see per-pupil funding in 2023/24 rise by 2 to 4%. Meanwhile, around 48% of primary schools will see a rise of between 1 and 4%.

This at a time when inflation has hit around 10% on the CPI measure (12.3% on the RPI measure which includes mortgage interest payments).

Per-pupil funding: The analysis of the provisional National Funding Formula allocations for 2023/24 shows what schools can expect to see next academic year (source: NEU)

An eight-page briefing document is being handed out to MPs during the party conference season in the hope of sparking action on pay and school funding, especially after education was completely ignored in last week’s “mini-budget” announcement. (For more on the row over teacher’s pay, see our article here.)

The briefing has been published by the NEU alongside the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers.

The latest projections show that by 2024/25, school funding looks set to be 3% lower in real-terms than in 2010.

A recent Institute for Fiscal Studies report (Sibeta, 2022) details a 9% fall in real-terms school funding between 2009/10 and 2019/20. In 2020, the government allocated an additional £7.1bn by 2022/23 and a year later invested an extra £4.4bn by 2024/25.

However, while the costs faced by schools look just about affordable this academic year (2022/23), schools will once again be facing real-terms cuts from next September.

School costs are expected to grow by 6% in 2022/23, while per-pupil funding will grow by 7.7%. However, in 2023/24, the IFS predicts that school costs will grow by a further 4%, above the expected 3% growth in per-pupil funding. And in 2024/25, the growth in school funding per-pupil is expected to be “only just above projected cost growth”.

Discussing the NEU’s NFF analysis, Dr Bousted added: “Pupils are again set to face another punishing round of cuts to their education. This year school costs rose by 6% and with inflation currently standing at 9.9% (CPI), it is very likely that school costs will rise sharply again next year. Schools are also dealing with a huge rise in the price of energy and having to find the money for unfunded staff pay rises.

“The latest announcement by government that they will put the interests of the 1% of the population earning more than £150,000 a year ahead of the country’s future is simply not acceptable. Money needs to be allocated to ensure schools and colleges have the funding to ensure every child gets the education they deserve.”

Education unions were furious last week when prime minister’s catastrophic mini-budget, which has led to sterling falling to an all-time low against the dollar, did not even mention schools.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “The government has given away billions of pounds to promote growth, but not a penny for education, where not only is growth presumably deemed to be unimportant but so is maintaining current provision. The Chancellor states that promoting economic growth will generate money for public services. However, the crisis in our schools and colleges is happening now, and a plan which he acknowledges will not happen overnight, will not pay the bills.

“Schools and colleges face huge extra costs from national pay awards for which there is no additional funding, and energy bills, which the government’s support scheme only partially addresses. They simply do not have the money to afford these costs. Without urgent financial support from the government, it is likely that there will be deep cuts to provision and the risk of a decline in educational standards.

“Some schools, particularly small primaries, may no longer be financially viable. It is inevitable that we will see larger class sizes, cuts to subject options and pastoral support, school trips cancelled, extra-curricular programmes scrapped, and widespread job losses.”

  • ASCL, NEU & NAHT: Briefing: The vicious circle of the squeeze on teacher and school leader pay, September 2022:
  • DfE: Guidance: National funding formula tables for schools and high needs: 2023 to 2024, updated August 2022:
  • Sibieta: School spending and costs: The coming crunch, IFS, August 2022:

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