Schools budget to rise by £7.1bn, but no extra cash until next year

Schools will get no additional funding until next year, prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed, after revealing further details of his spending pledge which will see £7.1 billion extra pumped annually into schools by 2022.

The government has announced today it will inject £2.6 billion extra into the schools budget in 2020-21, which includes £700 million earmarked for pupils with special needs.

Then a further £2.2 billion will be injected in 2021-22, and another £2.3 billion in 2022-23.

This means schools will get (cumulatively) an extra £14 billion across the three years, with the yearly schools budget boosted by £7.1 billion by 2022-23.

However critics have pointed out the cash doesn’t set out how much of this is inflation, nor acknowledge that the schools budget would rise by around £1 billion anyway by 2023 because of rising pupil numbers.

The Department for Education said the cash breakdown related to financial years. For maintained schools the financial year begins in April, and so they will receive the first chunk of extra funding from April 2020, the DfE said. Academies will get the cash from September next year, when their financial year begins.

Today’s announcement follows the new prime minister’s pledge during the leadership contest that he would reverse education cuts by adding £4.6 billion plus inflation per year into the schools budget by 2022-23.

However, it does mean that schools will see no extra cash until next year, at a time when many budgets are already stretched.

Unions have cautiously welcomed the announcement.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the investment “appears to repair some of the damage that has been done to the education system” but warned the lack of immediate funding meant there is “still a big problem for schools whose budgets are already at breaking point.”

The only small increase schools will have to look forward to in the near future is Johnson’s plans to increase the funding per secondary pupil to £5,000 from next year. However, this amounts to less than £50 million in extra funding – or a 0.1 per cent increase in overall spending.

From 2020-21, every primary school will get at least £4,000 funding per pupil.

Stephen Morales, chief executive of the Institute of School Business Leadership, said there was “lots to be optimistic about” in the announcement but it is vital the sector works together “very carefully to make sure this money gets to where it really needs to go”.

“We still could see vast swathes of inequality across the sector, which obviously we want to avoid.”

The extra money is planned to ensure per-pupil funding rises at least in line with inflation, and the government has reiterated a commitment to progressing the roll-out of the delayed national funding formula.

Full details on spending plans will be outlined in Wednesday’s spending review.

Further announcements are also due shortly on reforms to teacher pay, new measures to try and boost standards, funding for sixth forms and further education and action to tackle poor behaviour.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said today that spending per pupil in England has fallen by 8 per cent in real terms since 2009, and it would cost £4.7 billion a year to reverse the cuts by 2022-23.

It added the cash pledged today should just about be enough to reverse cuts, but it would take more than this to actually equate to a real terms spending increase per pupil.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he was “pleased” the government had “committed to desperately needed additional funding” and said it must be a “national priority” to deliver the pledge.

“The crisis is now and extra funding is needed as soon as possible.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said the announcement is “very positive” and “will in many cases be enough to mean schools don’t need to make further cuts next year”.

However, he added: “A generation of pupils have missed the education they should have received because of austerity. Today’s announcement will not compensate them for this loss.”

The new education secretary Gavin Williamson met with teaching unions yesterday morning, in a meeting he described as “enjoyable and constructive”.

Williamson added: “This £14billion funding increase – the largest cash boost in a generation – means our schools can continue to raise standards and build an education system that boosts productivity, improves social mobility and equips children with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the bright future that lies ahead.”

The government also pledged an additional £4.4 billion over the three years to cover rising pension costs.