Unions make 'unprecedented' move over school spending, as new figures show funding down £1.7bn

Heads and teachers will be consulted together on potential action over school spending in an “unprecedented” move by unions, as it was revealed that per-pupil funding is set to plummet by almost £1.7 billion in real terms.

The National Education Union, National Association of Head Teachers and Association of School and College Leaders have broken with tradition to consult their members simultaneously over what steps to take over the government’s “failure to address the school and college funding crisis” in the budget.

Although they often campaign together, the three organisations would normally consult members separately and on based on different timeframes, Schools Week understands the strength of feeling about last week’s financial statement has prompted union bosses to work more closely together.

Philip Hammond, the chancellor, has been widely mocked and criticised for his decision to allocate just £400 million of extra capital funding for schools to pay for “little extras”, but no additional cash to pay teachers.

It comes as new analysis by Labour of figures published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that per-pupil funding is set to be almost £1.7 billion lower in 2019-20 than it was in 2015, the last time the government reviewed overall school spending. This is because the amount schools get for each child has not increased in line with rising costs.

In a joint statement issued today, the three unions said they were “dismayed by the lack of understanding shown by the chancellor in his comment that the £400 million ‘bonus’ announced last Monday would help schools ‘buy the little extras they need'”.

“This allocation does not remotely address the 8 per cent real-terms decline in total school spending per pupil over the past eight years, including cuts of over 20 per cent to school sixth-form funding.

“Nor does the one-off allocation supply full funding for the teacher or support staff pay rises that the government has agreed.

“These funding pressures have resulted in cuts to curriculum options, enrichment activities, individual student support, classroom resources and maintenance budgets.”

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, will also rail against the budget settlement in a speech at a school in Yorkshire later today.

“The Tories have slashed billions from schools and now the chancellor thinks they should be grateful he’s offered them a whiteboard,” she said. “His suggestion that schools only need ‘little extras’ is downright insulting.

“Instead of offering a sticking plaster to schools this government should be genuinely investing in them, reversing their unjustifiable cuts.”

Labour’s analysis uses figures from the IFS that show that the amount schools get for each pupil will have fallen in real terms by £256.77 at secondary level and £195.88 at primary by 2019-20, compared with 2014-15.

Multiplied by the number of pupils due to be in the system by 2019-20, this amounts to a real-terms cut of £1,689,381,850, the party said.