William Eichler 04 March 2022

Extra £4.7bn for schools unlikely to cover cost pressures

Extra £4.7bn for schools unlikely to cover cost pressures image
Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com.

The Department for Education (DfE) ‘has little assurance’ that the extra £4.7bn committed for school funding in the 2021 spending review will cover the cost pressures that schools are facing, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has warned.

The PAC has found that schools are being forced to cut staff, drop subjects from the curriculum, and reduce the support system for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to cope with financial pressures.

In a new report published today, the PAC warn that more-deprived schools, measured by proportion of children eligible for free school meals, are ‘faring worse’ than less-deprived schools under the DfE’s new funding system.

The committee also warned that some academy trusts are building up large reserves which means a significant amount of funding is not being spent on educating pupils currently in school.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said that the Government was too reliant on national figures that indicate schools are in reasonable financial health and is overlooking what the PAC report describes as the ‘significant variation and challenges for individual schools’.

‘DfE’s airy assurances about the healthy books of academies in particular mask some cruel divides between the haves and have nots – unacceptable differences in life chances for our children and young people from the get-go, through no fault of their own,’ she said.

‘But we see the Department’s apparent disregard for the inequalities exposed and exacerbated in the pandemic in the catch-up provision debacle, and in all the children and their families still struggling, years after the promised review, with the poor provision for special educational needs and disabilities.

‘Rather than the Department blithely looking for laurels to rest on it must grasp that it’s not ok for any group of our children to be abandoned in the system that it oversees.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'Investment in schools is rising – we have confirmed an overall £4.7bn increase to the core school budget by 2024-25 and will continue to deliver year on year, real terms per pupil increases, including a 5% real terms per pupil boost in 2022-23.

'Schools across the country continue to have high standards of financial management and governance, with the latest published data showing that 95.9% of academy trusts and 91.6% of maintained schools have balanced accounts. We take appropriate action where necessary to support all trusts and schools with this.

'We also continue to improve our School Resource Management offer of guidance, tools, and direct support which is available to all state schools to help them target their resources to support pupils.'

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