Headteachers and union leaders have told MPs that schools need between £4 billion and £8 million added to their annual budgets to cope with rising costs.
Appearing in front of the parliamentary education committee, witnesses from across the schools community gave their estimates for the increase to the core schools budget that’s needed.
Although the core school budget currently stands at £42.4 billion, the highest it has ever been, funding has in fact been cut by £2.7 billion in real terms since 2015. Robert Halfon, the chair of the education committee, has called for a 10-year strategic funding plan for education, similar to that granted to the NHS.
A lot of the funding that comes into schools at the moment is dedicated grants for small things, and that’s not useful
Unions have previously said that at least £2 billion in additional annual funding is needed, but today they went further, offering a range of predictions for the amount of extra cash needed. However, they warned that the amount may change depending on what is expected of schools.
“We need to be really clear that to some extent there’s so much uncertainty about the extra costs the government is going to pile in,” warned Valentine Mulholland from the NAHT school leaders’ union.
Stephen Tierney, the chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable, said schools needed an annual uplift of £4 billion, while Mulholland said the sector needed “a couple of billion” over and above the £2.7 billion needed to reverse the real-terms cuts seen in recent years.
Darren Northcott, a national officer with the NASUWT teachers’ union, said £5 billion “would go a long way to making up the deficit that we have seen”, but said any long-term plan for education had to start “with a strategic plan, and then you have to work out the money that’s needed”.
“Let’s start by thinking about what it is we want our education across the piste to achieve,” he said.
Jules White, a headteacher who leads the Worthless school funding campaign, called for a £6 billion increase – £2.7 billion to reverse real-terms cuts, £2 billion for high needs pupils and £1.3 billion to fully implement the government’s new
national funding formula.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said his organisation wanted an “ambitious” increase of “£8 billion at least”.
Witnesses at the hearing also criticised Philip Hammond’s allocation of £400 million in capital funding for “little extras” in the budget, and said the money would be better spent as a revenue grant to fund the day-to-day running of schools.
“I think the announcement made by the chancellor was a very cynical attempt to say we have enough money and all we need is a few extras,” said White.
Tierney said if the £400 million was converted to revenue funding, he would spend it on implementing the part of the recent teacher pay award that is not funded by the government, and spend the rest on support staff. Northcott said the NASUWT believed the money would be better spent on high-needs pupils.
“A lot of the funding that comes into schools at the moment is dedicated grants for small things, and that’s not useful,” warned Mulholland, who said the chancellor’s comments about “little extras” were “particularly ill-judged”.