English schools to get extra £1.3 billion in core funding over next two years

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English schools are to get an additional £1.3 billion in transitional funding for 2018-20 as Theresa May’s beleaguered government pushes ahead with introducing its new national funding formula.

The surprise announcement comes after a concerted national campaign highlighting the likely cuts to local schools if the new funding formula was introduced unamended. The threat to school funding is seen as one of the reasons for the Conservative Party losing its overall majority in the UK’s General Election in June.

In a statement to Parliament, Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening said:

As the Prime Minister has said, we are determined to listen. That is why I am today confirming our plans to get on with introducing a national funding formula in 2018-19. I can announce that will now be supported by significant extra investment into the core schools budget over the next two years.

As a result of the investment, core funding for schools and high needs will rise from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £42.4 billion in 2018-19 and to £43.5 billion in 2019-20. This represents £1.3 billion in additional investment — £416 million more than was set aside at the last spending review for the core school budget in 2018-19, and £884 million more in 2019-20.

As a result total schools budget will increase by £2.6 billion between this year and 2019-20, and per pupil funding will be maintained in real terms for the remaining two years (2018-20) of the Spending Review period.

Among the areas the government says will benefit is funding for pupils with additional needs. Local authorities will also retain some flexibility during the transition period in how school funding is allocated among their schools. The details will be set out in operational guidance to be published shortly.

The Education Secretary told Parliament:

The guide will set out some important areas that are fundamental to supporting a fairer distribution through the national funding formula. For example, we will ring-fence the vast majority of funding provided for primary and secondary schools although local authorities, in agreement with their local schools forum, will be able to move some limited amounts of funding to other areas, such as special schools, where this better matches local need.

However, she went on to clarify that the additional funding was not new money but would come from with the Department for Education’s overall budget. Areas earmarked for savings include the government plans to replace free lunches for all children in their first three years of junior school with a cheaper free breakfast entitlement.

Reacting to the news, Paul Whiteman, general secretary designate of National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the union for school leaders said:

School leaders will welcome any additional funding for schools, but the funding announcement is below the £2 billion a year extra schools need to address real terms cuts.

NAHT has been campaigning for several months to press the government to fund education fully and fairly. It’s clear that the Department for Education has listened to these concerns, and is doing its bit to address the funding gap. However, the Treasury is not backing this up with new, additional funding. As we know, efficiency savings can only go so far in addressing the fact that there is not enough money in the system.

We look forward to hearing more detail on the funding formula. This statement offers many more questions than answers. This is a step in the right direction, but there is a long way to go to ensure all schools are getting the funding they need.

A joint statement from trade unions representing teachers and support staff said:

The Government’s funding announcement is disappointing and a return to smoke and mirrors statements on school funding. Whilst any extra money is welcome this isn’t enough to stop the huge cuts that schools are making.

The calculations published on our organisations’ School Cuts website showed that under the Conservative Party’s manifesto plans for school funding, schools faced a loss of £11.6 billion in real terms between 2015/16 and 2021/22.

The extra money pledged today is not sufficient to make up this loss. The Government says it will ensure that no school faces losing funding in cash terms. In fact, inflation will mean that most schools will be significantly worse off in real terms.

Schools are already making cuts in resources, curriculum choices and activities for students and in teaching and support staff posts. The General Election showed that education funding is hugely important to voters. The Government has clearly recognised that its original plans were unacceptable. We are now calling on the Government to find further additional funding to protect all schools in real terms and avoid these damaging cuts to children’s education.

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