Damian Hinds censured by stats watchdog over school funding claims

The education secretary made an “error” when he claimed in parliament that schools would get a real-terms increase in per-pupil funding, the Department for Education has admitted, following an investigation by the statistics watchdog.

Damian Hinds was reported to the UK Statistics Authority after he claimed on January 29 that “real-terms funding per pupil is increasing across the system”. The claim is incorrect because although per-pupil funding will increase in cash terms in the next two years, it will not take into account inflation and cost pressures, and does not therefore represent a “real-terms” rise.

Hinds made the claim during education questions in the Commons, and was reported to the stats watchdog the following week by Angela Rayner, Labour’s shadow education secretary.

Now Sir David Norgrove, the head of the UKSA, confirmed that the DfE admitted that Hinds’ claim was made “in error”, and that a correction had been recorded on parliament’s website.

Norgrove also warned that claims made by Hinds about the impact of the new national funding formula were “perhaps too strong”.

During education questions on January 29, the education secretary said “each school will see at least a small cash increase”.

Although it is true that the funding for schools will increase in cash terms will increase in 2018-19 and 2019-20, it will be up to local authorities how funding is allocated.

“The secretary of state’s suggestion that ‘each school will see at least a small cash increase’ was perhaps too strong. ‘On average will’ or ‘could’ would have been more precise,” said Norgrove.

Rayner said she was disappointed by the comments, and, borrowing a phrase used by Hinds just yesterday, said the education secretary “seems to need reminding that the mere repetition of a falsehood does not turn it into the truth”.

“Only yesterday the secretary of state stressed the importance of honesty in our public debate, so it is deeply disappointing that he has repeated comments on school funding that have been disproved time and time again.

“This government has cut funding to our schools for the first time in decades, yet they have the audacity to pretend that funding is increasing.