The government's 30 August 2019 school funding announcement

30 Aug 2019

The Prime Minister announced a three-year funding package for schools on Friday 30 August at 6pm (a pretty unusual time to make a policy announcement). Here are some notes on the details:

  • the announcement covers the core school budget only (funding for 5 to 16 year olds, early years and high needs). There is still no information on FE and other post-16 budgets but it is only a few days until the Treasury publishes its 2020-1 spending statement.
  • the promise to schools covers three years (2020-1, 2021-2 and 2022-3) and involves some large increases in spending. The schools budget (Dedicated Schools Grant) is due to rise from £45.1 billion this year (2019-20) to £47.7 billion in 2020-1 (a 5.8% increase), £49.9 billion in 2021-2 (4.7%) and £52.2 billion in 2022-3 (another 4.6%). The average increase is around 5% a year for 3 years
  • the increase is slightly frontloaded because of a big (10%) increase in high needs funding in 2020-1. The DfE statement promises one-quarter of the increase in 2020-1 will go to special education needs (£700 million out of £2.6 billion)
  • the increase does not take effect until 2020 but adds to the school budget increases implemented in 2018-9 and 2019-20 - DfE officials calculated in January 2019 that the overall school budget rises by 6.2% between 2017-18 and 2019-20 (a 3.6% rise in funding per pupil). Effectively government is increasing the rate of spending increases.
  • some of the extra money will be needed to deal with rising numbers of secondary age pupils (due to rise by 3% in 2020). DFE says that primary pupil numbers are no longer increasing
  • DfE plans to set a new secondary age minimum funding level of £5,000 in 2020-1 and a new primary age minimum of £4,000 for the following year. There are several additional factors in the funding formula so there is a risk that the funding drop at 16 will widen. The funding rates for 16 and 17 year olds have not changed for 7 years..
  • in addition to the extra funds listed above, DfE has extended the teacher pension grants introduced this month to protect schools from this month's contribution increase (from 16.48% to 23.68%). This wil cost the department about £1.5 billion (here''s an explanation of the TPS issue in education).

The government only has a very small majority in Parliament. Any decisions on tax and spending after April 2020 need to be set out in a Budget and voted by MPs in Parliament. Lots of things could change in the UK in the next three years but given the agreement across politicial parties about the need to spend more on schools, these spending plans should be considered fairly firm. There is also cross-party agreement on the need to improve further education funding and tackle skills issues in the UK. Perhaps this will be recognised in a future government announcement.