Cuts Watch #297: Schools’ budgets
A dramatic story on the Financial Times website reports a “close analysis” of the funding settlement for education in the Spending Review. The newspaper reveals that most schools will have their budgets cut during a period when the number of pupils is rising; according to the New Statesman, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has ‘coroborated’ the F.T. story (which is very much in line with earlier IFS research.)
Immediately after the Spending Review it was widely reported that the £2.5 billion “pupil premium”for children from poor families meant that the Department for Education was one of the SR winners. This belief was buttressed by the Chancellor’s comments in his Spending Review Statement:
We wanted to see if it was possible – even when spending was being cut – to find more resources for our schools and for the early years education of our children.
I can tell the House that we have succeeded.
The F.T. analaysis suggests that “only schools with the very poorest students will see significant rises in their budgets.” The main reason for this is the fact that the education budget for running costs will rise 0.4 per cent over four years, but the number of pupils will rise by 2.7 per cent.
If this were the only factor, then all schools would lose out, and the pupil premium will make a difference. But only a minority of schools will receive enough to receive more in pupil premium than the extra costs from rising numbers:
- At the average primary school 17 per cent of pupils qualify for the premium (by receiving free school meals), but a fifth of pupils have to qualify for a school to break even.
- At the average secondary school 14 per cent of pupils qualify, but a school needs 25 per cent to be a winner from the new arrangements.
I don’t want to sound too negative about the Pupil Premium – without it, things would be a lot worse and there’s a strong chance it would be the most disadvantaged schools and pupils that would have lost most. There is now a real advantage working in favour of the worst-off, it’s just a shame it came at a time when over-selling the overall education deal obscures this fact.