Annual report on education spending a ‘damning indictment of Government’s failure to invest’

More deprived schools seen significantly greater funding cuts than least deprived one

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An annual report on education spending in England has highlighted, not only the extent of spending cuts over the last decade, but also how the most disadvantaged areas are being the most affected.

The teachers’ union leader has blasted the government’s spending on education after the Institute for Fiscal Studies published its Annual Report, which revealed this year how schools with poorer children have been hit the hardest by funding cuts.  

Overall, the government has spent £116 million on education in the UK from 2022-23, which in real-terms reflects an 8%, or £10 billion, fall since 2010/11. This amounts to a drop from 5.6% to 4.4%, in national income spending over the 13 years.

Although government funding has picked up since 2019, the analysis found high levels of inflation and cost pressures have curbed its effect. Whilst the latest analysis also revealed the most deprived secondary schools saw a real-terms cut of 12% between 2010 and 2021 in contrast to 5% for the least deprived ones, despite Government’s ‘levelling up’ promises.

Reduced funding in local authorities for deprivation and the introduction of statutory minimum funding levels in 2020 were among the reasons given for this large disparity and inequality in who is facing the brunt of spending cuts.

“The National Funding Formula and Minimum Per Pupil levels have siphoned money away from the areas in greatest need meaning the poorest bear the greatest burden,” said Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU).

Persistent underfunding over the last 13 years has had “deep and lasting” effects on the education sector, Kebede said in response to the report which he blasted as a “damning indictment of the Government’s failure to invest in education since 2010”.

“While the Prime Minister speaks regularly of wanting to create a world class education system, the policies of his Government are resulting in the exact opposite,” blasted Kebede.

“Persistent underfunding has led to deep and lasting effects on the education sector.

“Class sizes are at record levels – primary class sizes are the highest in Europe and secondary class sizes are the highest since records began more than 40 years ago.

“All children deserve to be taught in classes of fewer than 30 led by a qualified teacher, but this is simply not being addressed. Nor is the recruitment and retention crisis, when the government cannot even meet its own targets in teacher training. No wonder teachers are leaving the profession in high numbers.”

The NEU has estimated that a huge 92% of schools will be unable to cope with cost rises in 2024-25 without making cuts to education provision, with the 1.9% average funding increase just not enough. 

So, although core school funding is set to rise next year, schools’ costs are growing meaning we’re likely to see ‘more of the same’ to come, with schools serving the poorest pupils losing out the most.  

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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