Spending on pupils drops by eight per cent, says IFS

By Joe Lepper

| 12 July 2018

The amount spent per school pupil in England has dropped by eight per cent since 2009/10, research has found.

Council school transport services have faced deep funding cuts since 2010, the IFS report found

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) research looked at total school spending per pupil between 2009/10 and 2017/18 and found there had been an eight per cent cut in real terms.

While in 2009 the per-pupil spend was £6,380, by 2017 this had shrunk to £5,870.

The IFS says a major factor is the 55 per cent reduction in the amount spent by councils per school pupil over the last eight years. There was also a 25 per cent cut in per sixth form pupil spend.

Key areas of council spending on pupils include school transport and additional support for those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Schools are also struggling to cope with increasing demand, with a 10 per rise in the pupil population in England since 2009/10.

The IFS research also looked at per-pupil spend in Wales, where there has been a five per cent fall over the same period. The research notes that while pupil numbers have risen in England, in Wales they have remained static over the last eight years.

"School spending per pupil has fallen by more in England than in Wales over the last eight years, virtually eliminating the gap in spending per pupil between the two countries," said IFS research fellow Luke Sibieta.

"Policymakers in both England and Wales have chosen to protect spending directly allocated to schools for pupils under 16, and to make much larger cuts to sixth form allocations and to local authority spending.

"Schools in England have faced the additional pressure of a fast-growing pupil population, whilst numbers in Wales have remained roughly constant."

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The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says the research counters government statements that schools are benefitting from record levels of investment.

"This forensic analysis comes from a highly respected independent body and the facts could not be more plain," said ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton.

"Despite the government's repeated insistence that it is spending record levels on education, the reality is that it has significantly cut funding per pupil in real terms. The scale of these cuts is a devastating indictment of its commitment to education and has put educational standards in jeopardy.

"Schools and colleges urgently require additional funding, but neither the Chancellor nor Prime Minister seem to be alert to the crisis which has developed under their watch.

"The government's rhetoric about improving social mobility is being undermined by funding realities which leave schools with no choice but to cut back their curriculum and reduce the individual support they are able to give to their students."

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union added: "The IFS figures confirm that schools in England and Wales have had a severe real terms funding cut since 2009/10. The cuts have been even deeper for school sixth forms, 25 per cent per pupil, and to local authority support services of 55 per cent between 2009/10 and 2017/18.

"Cutting the funding for schools in England by more than those in Wales is not the way to close a funding gap or to fund schools fairly. Schools in both countries need significantly more funding, not less.

"Under this government schools are experiencing severe financial hardship and having to cut the education provision for children and young people. This is an unacceptable situation that needs to be urgently addressed."

At this month's Association of Directors of Children's Services annual conference the organisation's president Stuart Gallimore warned that austerity measures and increasing demand had left children's services with "no fat to trim" from their budgets.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "School funding in England is at its highest ever level, rising to £43.5bn by 2020. Funding for the average primary school class is £132,000 - up £8,000 in the last decade, in today's prices. The same class of pupils would get £171,000 in secondary school - up £10,000 on the decade in today's prices.

"In fact, analysis from The Institute for Fiscal Studies itself has shown that real terms per-pupil funding for five- to 16-year-olds in England in 2020 will be more than 50 per cent higher than it was in 2000.

"We have also protected the base rate of funding for 16- to 19-year-olds until 2020, worth £4,000 per student for 16- to 17-year-olds."

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