Per pupil spending in English schools to fall to under 2009-10 levels – IFS

The government will spend less on school pupils in England next year than it did in 2009-10 despite a recent £7bn funding boost, according to a report warning that the austerity-era spending squeeze still persists.

Total spending per pupil in England was just over £6,500 in the latest complete year of data in 2019-20, a fall of 9% in real terms compared with its high point of £7,200 in 2009-10, according to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The researchers found that, although the government allocated an extra £7.1bn for schools over three years starting in 2019-20, school spending will still be 1% lower in 2022-23 than in 2009-10 when inflation and higher costs are factored in.

Luke Sibieta, who wrote the report, said the 9% fall in school spending was the largest in more than 40 years. “The fact that it still won’t have recovered back to 2009 levels by 2022 shows just how big the squeeze has been. This will make it that much harder for schools to address the major challenge of helping pupils catch up on lost learning alongside everything else they are required to do.”

The researchers found that the national funding formula for schools, introduced in 2018, had entrenched disadvantage by providing a bigger funding boost to more affluent areas. Between 2017-18 and 2022-23, funding allocated for the least deprived schools will increase by 8% to 9% in real terms compared with 5% for the most deprived schools.

Overall, the most deprived secondary schools have received a 14% real-terms cut to spending per pupil between 2009-10 and 2019-20, compared with a 9% drop for the least deprived schools, the IFS said.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “This is at a time when demands on schools have been increasing. There is no escaping the fact that schools will have to continue to make cuts to provision until this is properly addressed.

“Furthermore, it is those schools serving the most deprived pupils that have seen the biggest losses. In light of all this, talk of ‘levelling up’ starts to sound very hollow indeed.”

Kate Green, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said school budgets had been “hammered” over the past decade. “This damage is compounded by the Conservatives’ failure to invest in the ambitious recovery plan needed to help children bounce back from the pandemic,” Green said.

The Department for Education highlighted that headteachers would be given funding this year to offer their own teacher-led catch-up tuition, on top of the national tutoring programme that began last year.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, said: “We are boosting the tutoring that is available to pupils so that millions more can benefit from the support they provide and we see a real tutoring revolution take place in our schools.”

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