School spending per pupil 'lower than in 2010' despite Tory funding boast

England’s schools had £6,500 per pupil in 2019-20, which is 9% lower in real terms than the high-point of £7,200 in 2009-10, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS)

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson visits a school
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson visits a school

School spending on each pupil in England will remain lower than before the Tories came to power despite a Government funding boost, damning analysis suggests.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned that schools in disadvantaged areas face the biggest challenges as they have seen heftier real terms cuts over the last decade.

The findings raise serious questions about Boris Johnson’s agenda to ‘level up’ poorer parts of the country in the wake of the pandemic.

As a result, schools in deprived areas will find it much harder to catch up with lost learning as they emerge from the coronavirus crisis.

It comes as Labour publishes new data showing the UK has had longer school closures than any European country other than Italy.

Since January 2020, shortly before Covid hit, British children have been out of their classrooms on nearly half (44%) of days. The figures apply to all four nations of the UK.

But by contrast, Irish schools were shut 29% of the time, Spanish schools were shut 19% of days and French pupils missed just 12% of lessons.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson is on Thursday announcing an expansion of the catch-up tuition scheme to support up to six million pupils over the next three years.

Academic mentors are being placed in selected schools across the country to work in small groups with over 250,000 students most in need of support this year.

However, the IFS found that total school spending per pupil in England was just over £6,500 in 2019-20, which is 9% lower in real terms than the high-point of £7,200 in 2009-10.

Despite the Government allocating over £7 billion extra for schools, core funding per pupil in 2022–23 will still be about 1-2% lower in real terms than before they came to power.

Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at IFS, said the Tory cuts over the last decade were the largest in more than 40 years.

Funding was cut in real terms in the era of austerity-loving David Cameron


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He said: “The fact that it still won’t have recovered back to 2009 levels by 2022 shows just how big the squeeze has been.

“This will make it that much harder for schools to address the major challenge of helping pupils catch up on lost learning alongside everything else they are required to do.

“Schools serving disadvantaged communities face the biggest challenges.

“They faced the biggest cuts up to 2019 and are now receiving the smallest rises.

“This pattern runs counter to the government’s aim of levelling up poorer parts of the country.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This report clearly shows the real-term freeze in funding that schools have had to cope with for over a decade.

“Despite the Government’s bold claims on school funding, it is very clear that school spending per pupil will still be lower in real terms next year than it was a decade ago.

“This is at a time when demands on schools have been increasing.

“There is no escaping the fact that the schools have had and will continue to have to make cuts to provision until this is properly addressed.

“Furthermore, it is those schools serving the most deprived pupils that have seen the biggest losses.

“In light of all this, talk of ‘levelling up’ starts to sound very hollow indeed.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “This Government is providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade – £14 billion in total over the three years to 2022-23.

“This is a £7.1 billion increase in funding for schools, compared to 2019-20 funding levels.”


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