DfE raids own coffers for a tenth of £3.1bn catch-up cash

school funding

More than a tenth of the government’s £3.1 billion education catch-up funding is coming from existing Department for Education budgets, ministers have admitted.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has provided a full breakdown of how much money will be spent across various education recovery pledges over the coming years, after MPs demanded answers in June.

In a letter to the Parliamentary education committee, Williamson admitted that £339 million of the £3.126 billion allocated so far for catch-up will come from existing budgets.

This includes £173 million of the £542 million allocated in 2020-21 for the catch-up premium and tutoring packages announced last year, and £100 million due to be spent on various initiatives this year. A further £66 million from existing budgets is due to be spent in 2022-23.

However, the document also reveals that the DfE underspent on catch-up activities in the last financial year by £12 million.

The DfE’s breakdown

In March, Schools Week revealed that although “over half” of £405 million in additional funding pledged in February was from the Treasury, the rest was from DfE budgets.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies found in May that the DfE had raided existing budgets for a third of its £4.3 billion Covid spending, but this analysis also took into account things like free school meals costs, and not just catch-up plans.

Tutoring funding to drop dramatically in 2024

The breakdown published by the education committee this week also shows how funding for tutoring – a key pillar of the government’s recovery plan – will fall dramatically in 2024-25. Schools Week revealed earlier this year how subsidies for the National Tutoring Programme are expected to taper off in the coming years.

According to the document, £163 million was due to be spent on tutoring interventions in 2020-21, while £404 million has been allocated for this year. The government has set aside a further £393 million for tutoring in 2022-23 and then £359 million in 2023-24, but then just £110 million in 2024-25.

Other spending over the five year period covered includes previously-announced initiatives like £200 million for summer schools this year, and the recovery premium aimed at disadvantaged children, worth £302 million over this year and next. There is also £408 million of investment in teacher training and development between 2021-22 and 2024-25.

The DfE has been criticised for its education recovery plan, including by its own commissioner Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned earlier this year after ministers allocated less than a tenth of the funding requested.

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