A major report published today  (19 July) by the Education Select Committee, along with a series of related reports and news stories over recent days, has once again brought into sharp focus the funding crisis that has gripped schools throughout  the country and supports the case that NGA continues to make for urgent investment.

In the report, titled A ten-year plan for school and college funding the Committee says that it received “overwhelming evidence that schools and colleges were under considerable financial pressure” and that school funding has not kept pace with increasing cost pressures on schools and colleges which include “annual pay award and salary raises, National Insurance, inflation, pensions, and SEND provision”.

Whilst the committee recognised that “the Department [for Education] (DfE) is beginning to acknowledge the significant financial strain that schools and colleges are under” it said that “the Department’s recognition of this problem now needs to be translated into significant funding increases”.

As well as calling on the DfE “to make the strongest possible case” to the Treasury, the Committee’s report says that the current spending system is “broken” and calls for a longer term spending plan like the NHS which would “provide schools, colleges and the Department with much needed strategic direction and financial certainty”. The committee suggests that this “funding model should involve a multi-billion pound settlement from Treasury, informed by a bottom-up assessment of the cost of delivering a quality education for all children and young people.”

The report also contains specific recommendations to increase the 16-18 funding rate, by £760 per student and raise in line with inflation each year to acknowledge the current “troubling picture” of post-16 education, and of special educational needs and disability funding says “[it] is completely inadequate. There is simply not enough money in the system to provide for the scale of demand”.

Responding to the report Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders referred to it as “a damning indictment of the government’s dreadful record on school and college funding”. He went on to say that the report “rightly identifies the fact that the government’s mantra that ‘more money than ever is going into education’ has added insult to injury at a time when schools and colleges have suffered devastating real-terms cuts”.

The report follows funding proposals published earlier this week by a coalition of three leading education unions and a group representing some of England’s lowest funded local authorities for education. The proposals are based on detailed analysis, which shows that a total of £12.6bn extra is required by 2022/23, in order to restore in real terms the 2015 level of funding for schools, high needs, early years, and pupil premium, and restoring in real terms the 2010 level of funding for 16-19 education.

Press coverage today also purports that teachers and school staff are in line for a 2.75% pay rise, part of a wide range of increases in public sector pay to be confirmed shortly in one of Theresa May’s final actions as Prime Minister. However with no new funding announced in relation to the measure, it looks likely that the pay increase will have to be funded through existing budgets.

The rapidly growing crisis in high needs funding is also highlighted in research carried out by the County Councils Network. The research shows the pressure on some cash starved local authorities to plug the high needs block deficit, either by using reserves or by moving funds from other funding blocks. Along with a range of voices throughout the sector NGA continues to argue that the situation with high needs has become unsustainable. One of our key asks for the future spending review is that the high needs budget must be increased by at least £1.5 billion per year.  

At the same time, the DfE has announced £33.5million of new funding through the a new Trust Capacity Fund, which will be accessible for “high performing” trusts to provide “support to communities and schools that need it most”.

NGA response

NGA welcomes the announcement of the Trust Capacity Fund and any new funding for schools. However, as the Education Select Committee report and other recent reports have shown, the scale and severity of the school funding crisis requires more significant and urgent investment to fund the education our pupils deserve. School governors and trustees – the people who are deciding how school budgets are spent – continue to tell us that they are unable to manage current funding pressures without any adverse impact on the quality of education provided, and are sharing their stories with us and their MP to illustrate the difficult decisions that they are taking.

View NGA’s nine ‘asks’ for the forthcoming comprehensive spending review.

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