Covid funding data reveals £124m summer schools underspend

Breakdown published by DfE shows schools received almost £300m in Covid grants

Breakdown published by DfE shows schools received almost £300m in Covid grants

A magnifying glass over money

Schools received almost £300 million in Covid funding from the government during the pandemic, new figures show.

But the government has also reported a massive £124 million underspend on its summer schools programme in 2021, after most participating schools hosted just a week of provision.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency has published a breakdown of funding paid out to schools through 10 different grant schemes that ran during the pandemic.

However, this does not include the money spent on centrally-run food voucher schemes, laptops provided directly by the government or most of the catch-up funding pledged by ministers.

The government was repeatedly criticised for its Covid funding schemes over the past two and a half years, with leaders often warning that the grants were not generous enough or too restrictive.

For example, some of the grants required schools to reduce their reserves to a certain level before becoming eligible.

However, the pandemic also saved some schools money. Schools Week revealed earlier this year how partial school closures, exam cancellations and other scrapped activities saved trusts significant sums amid the pandemic.

Here, Freddie Whittaker, Tom Belger and Amy Walker dig into the figures.

1. £124m underspend on summer schools

The government allocated £200 million for secondary schools to run a “one or two-week summer school” last year.

But today’s data shows a massive £124 million underspend, with just £75.3 million claimed by 2,780 schools. We have asked the DfE what happened to the spare money.

It comes after an official report on the scheme found most participating schools hosted just one week of Covid summer school last year, with less than a third running for the two weeks funding allowed, new figures reveal. Only around 336,000 pupils attended.

The highest sum – £182,972.32 was received by Humberstone Park School, an academy in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. In total, 23 schools received more than £100,000 in summer schools funding.

The lowest sum – £480 – went to Highfields School, a maintained school, in the Derbyshire Dales.

2. £139m in ‘exceptional costs’

This funding was available to schools in 2020, up to the end of the summer term. It covered things like extra hygiene services, additional cleaning, free school meals support not covered by the national voucher scheme and loss of income.

But a report by the Education Policy Institute found that less than a third of the additional costs facing schools as a result of the pandemic were covered by the fund.

As revealed by Schools Week last year, the government paid out around £139 million to 15,124 schools. But figures obtained by this newspaper show claims worth £42 million were rejected.

Twenty-two schools received over £100,000. Walbottle Campus in Newcastle received the biggest payout – £191,152, while the lowest payout was £1 to Mildmay Junior School in Essex. The average payout was £9,208.

3. Free school meals support cost £50m

This funding pot was for free school meals provision in early 2021, following the last–minute decision to close schools again in January.

The national voucher scheme was relaunched, but schools were also allowed to arrange their own local vouchers or provide food parcels.

Today’s data shows the DfE paid out £50.3 million to 11,030 schools

Fifty-six schools received over £50,000. The highest payout was £103,320 made to Excelsior Academy in Newcastle, and the lowest was £3.50 made to eight schools. The average payment was £4,558.21.

4. Covid workforce fund bill comes to £14m

The Covid workforce fund covered supply costs at schools and colleges facing “significant staffing and funding pressures” so they could continue to deliver face-to-face teaching to pupils.

It was originally established in 2020 and extended following continued Covid disruption.

Today’s data shows £13.9 million was paid out over two years, including £5.5 million paid to 896 schools in 2020-21 and £8.4 million paid to 914 schools in 2021-22.

Pield Heath House School in Uxbridge, a special school, received the largest overall annual total in 2020-21 at £117,103.68. The lowest annual sum received across the two years was £2.37 paid to Darrick Wood School in Bromley. 

Local authority maintained schools received £8.3 million, while academies received £4 million and special schools received £1.5 million.

5. £10m spent on first year mentors’ salaries

In the first year of the National Tutoring Programme, schools were given money to cover the salaries of academic mentors, though a report from Teach First revealed how dozens of schools used them to provide teaching cover.

Today’s data shows £10,860,236 to cover mentor salaries up to August 2021 was paid to 920 schools.

The 562 academies participating split £6,543,478 between them while the 354 maintained schools split £4,247,036. Four special schools split £69,722.

The average school received £11,805, but the highest payment was almost three times that.

Stoke Park School in Coventry received £32,951, one of 78 schools receiving more than £20,000. At the other end of the table, eight schools were paid less than £1,000 each, with the Blyth Academy receiving just £458.

6. Just 164 schools claim for mass Covid testing

An “exceptional costs” pot for mass Covid testing – for expenses like hiring external venues or marquees – saw £417,299 paid out to 164 schools who claimed.

In total 116 academies – more likely to be secondary schools – split £303,678, while 29 maintained schools split £85,684. The remaining £27,937 went to 19 special schools.

Sixty-two schools received less than £1,000, including Colne Park High School, which received £66.90. 

Seven received at least £10,000, including Priestley College in Warrington (£29,096), St Catherine’s College in Eastbourne (£25,461) and Holland Park School in west London (£18,706).

7. Just £6.5m of £15m AP transition funding used

This fund was created to help alternative provision schools and colleges ease the transition for year 11 pupils going into post-16 education.

The government paid out £6.5 million over two years, including £2.8 million to 199 schools in 2020-21 and £3.7 million to 218 schools in 2021-22.

However, this falls well short of the £15 million total funding announced by the DfE. The department said today that the scheme was voluntary and “demand-led”, and that it never expected 100 per cent take-up.

As the funding was from the DfE’s existing budget, the remaining cash will be used to address “other priorities”.

The average payout in the first year was £14,086.73, and £17,108.90 in year two.

8. Cash for tech support, exam costs and cadets

Under the get help with technology programme, schools claimed around £329,000 for device and connectivity support for government-provided laptops and tablets.

A further £309,000 was claimed from the qualifications fund, which covered the cost of autumn 2021 exams, private candidates and priority appeals.

The DfE has also announced it handed schools £773,535 in school staff instructor grant funding. This was for schools with cadet forces to boost extra-curricular activities and foster “self-discipline” in schools following national lockdowns.

More from this theme


Long Covid teachers join forces to sue ministers

About 85 teachers in the UK have expressed an interest in joining the action

Lucas Cumiskey

Williamson ‘considered resigning’ over ‘panic’ Jan 2021 school closures

Former ed sec tells Covid inquiry he did not have 'complete autonomy' over closure decisions, and claims his advice...

Freddie Whittaker

Covid: ‘Williamson threw schools under the bus’

Inquiry hears former education secretary opposed face masks in schools to avoid 'surrender' to unions

Amy Walker

Williamson opposed masks in schools because he didn’t want to ‘surrender’ to unions

Evidence to the Covid-inquiry claims the former education secretary 'didn't want to give an inch' to the education unions...

Samantha Booth

Sixth-form loses employment tribunal over Covid shortcomings

Employment tribunal judge backs English teacher's indirect age discrimination claim against London sixth form

Samantha Booth

Teacher sickness absence soars in wake of pandemic

More than 3.2 million working days were missed due to illness last year

Freddie Whittaker

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *