Giving schools extra money only boosts attainment by a ‘fraction’, DfE study finds

Handing schools extra money only boosts the attainment of pupils by a “fraction”, a new Department for Education (DfE) study has found.

Researchers also found that school budget cuts don’t appear to have made much difference to pupil results – suggesting schools are stepping up to the challenge of operating with less cash.

The DfE analysed the funding and attainment of all schools from 2010 to 2015. In secondary schools, they found that per-pupil funding had a small positive, but statistically insignificant impact, on attainment.

Meanwhile at primary level researchers found a small positive, and statistically significantly, correlation between funding and attainment.

But the DfE said this was modest, and is mostly down to large increases in funding in relation to smaller increases in pupil attainment.

A review of literature around per-pupil spending, also published in the report, found that while there are few studies, evidence suggests that additional school resources positively influence attainment, although the effects are only “modest”.

The report cited evidence suggesting that spending an extra £1,000 per pupil can boost attainment at GCSE by a “fraction of a grade”.

An analysis of secondary schools that lost funding between 2010 to 2015 found that a drop in their per-pupil funding didn’t make a difference to pupil attainment.

But when looking at primary schools, researchers found a drop in funding was associated with worse scores – however they described this as only “very slightly lower attainment”.

Estimates suggested a one per cent funding change in primaries was associated with an up to 0.071 percentage point fall in the proportion of pupils gaining at least level 4.

The department stated that the analysis was not able to establish a consistent link between funding levels and outcomes for schools.

However the report stated the analysis does not completely overcome the significant weakness of research in the area.

The report comes as the government is under increasing pressure to boost funding for schools.

Despite an announcement by education secretary Justine Greening to inject £1.3 billion into schools funding over the next two years, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has stated school funding will have fallen nearly 5 per cent in real terms by 2020.

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