With growing concerns from school leaders, headteachers and parents about the squeeze on school budgets, Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, has become the latest senior minister to seek a change of direction on public spending. The Daily Telegraph reported that the Secretary of State has asked for an abandonment of plans to cut per pupil funding, calling for “a public statement within weeks making it clear the change in direction so schools know where they stand before the summer holidays”.
The Education Policy Institute published a research note this week, concluding that in order to address the inflation pressures faced by schools, the Government would need to allocate an additional £1.3bn in the schools budget by 2021-22, over and above the £4bn commitment made in the Conservative manifesto.
The report analyses how the new government could proceed with school funding and a new National Funding Formula, and its key findings include:
Without the £1.3bn, there would be a real-terms per pupil reduction of 3 per cent by the end of the Parliament.
No longer being able to rely upon redirecting savings from abolishing universal infant free school meals (UIFSM), the Chancellor already faced challenges to deliver the £4bn manifesto commitment.
The government has committed to introducing a new national funding formula with no losers in cash terms, at a potential cost of £350m per year. If the government did decide to put in the extra £1.3bn to protect real per pupil spending, then some of the extra money could be used to help ensure that schools in lower funded areas saw bigger budget rises.
The government needs to confirm whether it will maintain its commitment to implement the national funding formula in April 2018. Local authorities and schools need to know how much funding they are likely to have next year so that they can plan accordingly.
It remains to be seen if the Education Secretary will get the assurances she is seeking.