Boris Johnson has promised to increase investment in English schools substantially above the expected rate of inflation over the next three years, in a fresh sign he is gearing up for a general election campaign bolstered by large spending commitments.
The proposed rises amount to 6 per cent in 2020-21 and nearly 5 per cent in the following two years to bring the school budget up to £52.2bn in 2022-23, ending a decade of budgetary squeezes. Further education will get a £400m boost.
However, the UK prime minister’s pledge will not eliminate funding pressures on all schools immediately.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think-tank, said total school spending per pupil in England had fallen by 8 per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2018-19, and reversing the cuts would cost £4.7bn a year by 2022-23.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, gave a cautious welcome to the spending promise, saying: “After five years of disappointment on funding . . . we hope that this announcement is as good as it looks . . . [It] appears to repair some of the damage that has been done to the education system since the cuts began in 2010.”
But he pointed out that many schools would still struggle to cope in the absence of extra funding during the current financial year, and said he would study the figures closely. “It would be disastrous if the detail didn’t live up to the £14.4bn headline,” he said.
The new funding, which covers pupils aged from five to 16, as well as students in the sixth form and further education, will be followed by reforms to teachers’ pay.
Pupils aged over 16 receive lower funding than their younger counterparts, and support drops further if they remain in study after 18, a source of particular concern to further education colleges.
The Department for Education said there would be “measures to ensure standards in schools and colleges continue to rise, and action to tackle poor behaviour and bullying”.
Under Mr Johnson’s plans, every secondary school will receive a minimum of £5,000 per pupil up to the age of 16 next year and every primary school at least £4,000 from 2021-22. There will be £700m extra for children with special educational needs and disabilities in 2020-21 and a shift in the national funding formula to redistribute extra money to areas which have been historically underfunded.
“We should not accept the idea that there can be ‘winners or losers’ when it comes to our children’s futures,” the prime minister said. “That’s why we are providing additional funding now and for the future for every school, with those historically underfunded receiving the greatest increase.”
Sajid Javid, the chancellor, said: “We said our priorities were police, healthcare and education, and that’s what we are delivering at next week’s spending round.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, called the new money “very positive” and said it showed recognition of efforts by unions, parents and councillors despite dismissals by government in the past that there was any problem with education funding.
Boost for further education
Sixth form colleges and other further education institutions will receive a boost in next week’s spending review to support post-16 training, as focus increases around revitalising vocational education.
Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, agreed a £190m increase for the 2020-21 financial year in the “base rate” paid for each student, which has declined for post-16s relative to younger students over the past decade.
Another £120m will go to supporting expensive but high-quality courses such as engineering, with the remainder of the extra support going for students resitting GCSEs in colleges, the introduction of vocational T levels and the recruitment and training of teachers.
Gavin Williamson, education secretary, said: “As former FE students, the chancellor and I both know first-hand how important the further education sector is so I’m really pleased that today that government is giving our sixth forms and colleges a major funding boost — the single biggest annual uplift since 2010.”
David Hughes, head of the Association of Colleges, called the funding “the first meaningful investment in further education for 16 to 19 year olds for more than 10 years.”
He added: “It’s not enough to reverse the decade of cuts, nor to properly stabilise the sector for the future, but it is a good start.”