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School Funding: Johnson’s parting gift to schools is a slap in the face

students with bags

Today, Will Quince, Minister of State for School Standards, announced in a statement that mainstream schools funding will increase by just 1.9% per pupil in 2023-24 compared to 2022-23.

Were the CPIH rate of inflation to remain at 7.9% (as of May 2022) when the new funding allocations begin, the funding settlement for mainstream schools announced today would amount to a 5.5% cut per pupil in real terms, worth £2.47 billion.

Mainstream schools in 8 council areas – Tower Hamlets, Southwark, Haringey, Hackney, Newham, Lambeth, Slough and Waltham Forest – are estimated to receive increases of less than 1% per pupil in 2023-24.

The Department for Education says here (at para 78) that, in 2023-24, “schools [will] attract £480 [per year] for all primary and secondary pupils who are eligible for free school meals. This funding is broadly intended to cover the cost of providing free meals for each eligible pupil.” The equivalent figure for 2022-23 was £470.

Sector Response

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

“Boris Johnson’s parting gift to schools is a slap in the face. As our teachers deal with sweltering classrooms and squeezed salaries, this Conservative Government has handed mainstream schools a real terms pay cut worth almost £2.5 billion.

“With food and energy prices spiralling, schools too are suffering from the cost-of-living crisis. Increasing free school meals funding by just £10 per head a year will not stop schools from choosing between cutting quality or putting up prices for other struggling families.

“Liberal Democrats know that education is an investment in our children’s future. The next Prime Minister must put our young people first and provide schools with the resources they desperately need.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“While we welcome this settlement and improved education funding in recent years, this comes after years of real-terms cuts. Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, shows that school funding per pupil in 2024 will only be at about the same level as in 2010, while colleges will still be receiving 10% less, and sixth forms 23% less. The squeeze on education funding over the past decade has resulted in schools and colleges having to make very significant cutbacks to provision.

“Furthermore, the settlement for 2023-24 does not remotely take into account the huge inflationary pressures which schools and colleges are now experiencing. We are hearing reports of energy bills being increased by 300% or more. Many settings have also continued to face Covid cost pressures in using supply staff to cover for absence. They also face the prospect of having to absorb the cost of pay awards from existing budgets. It is increasingly inevitable that many will have to make further cutbacks to provision.

“The government has short-changed education for many years and, unfortunately, that has left the sector in a very difficult financial situation.”

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“This announcement is very damaging to our children’s education as it looks like this Government is returning to the bad days of austerity and away from any sense of levelling up.

“A £1.5bn increase to school funding 2023-24 might have looked good when first announced in the 2021 Spending Review, but the surge in inflation since then means it’s a big real-terms cut for education spending.

“Over half of schools will only receive a 0.5% per pupil increase – perhaps as much as 9% behind inflation. 22% are funded at the minimum funding level and a further 31% are funded at the rate set by the funding floor. This is a very big real-terms cut for over half of schools.

“Even the schools getting 2.4% will be well behind inflation. This will compromise schools’ efforts to address their pupils’ wellbeing and Covid recovery needs.

“The Government needs to recognise the changed circumstances since the 2021 Spending Review and put more money into our children’s futures.

“The NEU will reach out to parents, school governors and other unions to challenge this proposed funding settlement – it simply doesn’t meet the needs of our children or our schools.”

Statement by Will Quince, Minister of State for School Standards

Today I am confirming provisional funding allocations for 2023-24 through the schools, high needs and central school services national funding formulae (NFF). Overall, core schools funding (including funding for mainstream schools and high needs) is increasing by £1.5bn in 2023-24 compared to the previous year, on top of the £4bn increase in 2022-23.

High needs funding is increasing by a further £570m, or 6.3%, in 2023-24 – following the £2.6 billion increase over the last three years. This brings the total high needs budget to over £9.7bn. All local authorities will receive at least a 5% increase per head of their 2-18 population, compared to their 2022-23 allocations, with some authorities seeing gains of up to 7%. Alongside our continued investment in high needs, the Government remains committed to ensuring a financially sustainable system where resources are effectively targeted to need. The consultation on the SEND and Alternative Provision Green Paper closes on 22 July, and the Government will confirm the next steps in implementing our reform programme later this year.

Funding for mainstream schools through the schools NFF is increasing by 1.9% per pupil compared to 2022-23. Taken together with the funding increases seen in 2022-23, this means that funding through the schools NFF will be 7.9% higher per pupil in 2023-24, compared to 2021-22.

The NFF will distribute this funding based on schools’ and pupils’ needs and characteristics. The main features in 2023-24 are:

  • The core factors in the schools NFF (such as basic per-pupil funding, and the lump sum that all schools attract) will increase by 2.4%.
  • Funding for disadvantaged pupils will see greater increases – with funding for two deprivation factors in the NFF increasing by a greater amount than other factors. These two factors (relating to pupils who have been eligible for free school meals at any point over the last six years, and the IDACI factor which relates to relative deprivation between local areas) will increase by 4.3% compared to their 2022-23 values.
  • The funding floor will ensure that every school attracts at least 0.5% more pupil-led funding per pupil compared to its 2022-23 NFF allocation.
  • The minimum per pupil funding levels (MPPLs) will increase by 0.5% compared to 2022-23. This will mean that, next year, every primary school will receive at least £4,405 per pupil, and every secondary school at least £5,715. Academy trusts continue to have flexibilities over how they allocate funding across academies in their trust. This means, in some cases, an academy could receive a lower per-pupil funding amount than the MPPL value. This may reflect, for example, activities that are paid for by the trust centrally, rather than by individual academies.
  • The 2022-23 schools supplementary grant has been rolled into the schools NFF. Adding the grant funding to the NFF ensures that this additional funding forms part of schools’ core budgets and will continue to be provided.

We are targeting a greater proportion of schools NFF funding towards deprived pupils than ever before- with 9.8% of the schools NFF allocated to deprivation in 2023-24. This will help schools in their vital work to close attainment gaps and level up educational opportunities. In 2023-24, schools in the highest quartile of deprivation (measured by the percentage of pupils who have been eligible for free school meals over the past 6 years) will, on average, attract larger per-pupil funding increases than less deprived schools.

As previously confirmed in the Government’s response to the consultation on completing our reforms to the NFF, 2023-24 will also be our first year of transition to the “direct” schools NFF – with our end point being a system in which, to ensure full fairness and consistency in funding, every mainstream school in England is funded through the same national formula without adjustment through local funding formulae. In 2023-24 local authorities will only be allowed to use NFF factors in their local formulae, and must use all NFF factors, except the locally determined premises factors. Local authorities will also be required to move their local formulae factors 10% closer to the NFF values, compared to where they were in 2022-23, unless their local formulae are already so close to the NFF that they are classed as “mirroring” the NFF. This follows the positive response to these proposals in the consultation last year. Alongside the NFF publications, today we have published an analysis of the impact of this initial move towards the direct NFF in the National Funding Formula for Schools and High Needs 2023-24 policy document(opens in a new tab).

Central school services funding is provided to local authorities for the ongoing responsibilities they have for all schools. The total provisional funding for ongoing responsibilities is £292 million in 2023-24. In line with the process introduced for 2020-21, to withdraw funding over time for the historic commitments local authorities entered into before 2013-14, funding for historic commitments will decrease by a further 20% in 2023-24.

Confirmed allocations of schools, high needs and central schools services funding for 2023-24 will be published in December. These will be based on the latest pupil data at that point.

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