£3 billion is the notorious figure most school leaders fear at the moment. It is the amount that the government intends to cut from the education budget. £3 billion has had school leaders asking parents for regular financial contributions, sending letters out to parents warning of dark days ahead, lobbying MPs and promise their resignation unless the government makes a U-turn on this policy.
The Department for Education says “the government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42bn by 2019-20.”
Education has been largely ring-fenced during the public sector cuts over the last decade but the government feels it cannot protect education any longer. The Department for Education said: “The system for distributing funding is unfair, opaque and outdated. We are going to end the postcode lottery. Under the proposed national funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.”
The school funding system has been distributing funds unfairly for quite some time and calls have been made to make the system more equal. In a bid to make the system fairer, a new formula has been proposed which it is widely accepted. However, the contention comes from the amount of funding rather than the way it is distributed.
The Teacher Network survey received responses from more than 1,000 school staff in England and has painted a picture of what the cuts will mean and how schools plan to cope.
What will it mean?
“The Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that school spending per pupil is likely to fall by around 8% in real terms by 2019-20, the first drop since the mid-1990s…69% of school leaders stated that they believe their deficits will be untenable by 2020” (Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies).
“Far from being the levelling up that some councils and heads have demanded, this is a levelling down. Even the schools currently worst funded will see real-terms cuts in this parliament.” (Kevin Courtney, General Secretary at the National Union of Teachers)
So rather than increasing funding for schools which have not received as much as schools in other parts of the country, the proposed plans would make it fairer through cutting those with bigger budgets instead. However, in real-terms, even those not experiencing cuts will feel the pinch thanks to inflation, the apprenticeship levy, immigration skills charge, higher contributions to national insurance and teachers’ pensions, the introduction of the national living wage and pay rises.