School Funding

Desperate plea to MPs over school funding

Tory MPs must choose a new Prime Minister who delivers on the party’s 2019 election manifesto pledge to bring school funding back to 2010 levels in real terms to avoid a ‘crisis’ which will have a ‘devastating impact’ on the sector , warned the education sector .

Leaders of 13 organizations, including the Confederation of School Trusts, NAHT, Association of Schools and Colleges and the National Governance Association, wrote to all Tory MPs today warning that schools in their constituencies will see an average shortfall of up to £45,000 for primary and £250,000 for secondary by 2024.

This will lead to teacher job cuts that will impact educational outcomes and leave students schooled in unsafe buildings if funding is not urgently increased.

“A funding shortfall of this magnitude cannot be absorbed by schools and colleges without seriously affecting the quality of education. Simply put, they will not be able to afford to continue providing the education that pupils and students deserve,” they warn.



The letter, published below in its entirety, also says the level of underfunding is “unprecedented, even in the context of a decade of education underfunding,” and that it will have a ” direct impact on the ability of schools and colleges to maintain educational standards.

“In some cases, they will compromise the well-being of children.”

A perfect storm

The letter explains how the crisis was created by a ‘perfect storm’ of factors impacting budgets, including a decade of declining school funding, ‘spiraling’ energy bills and unfunded pay rises for teachers.

He describes how headteachers and governors must now make ‘heartbreaking’ choices about cuts in response to the lack of funds, including:

  • Make teachers and support staff redundant – including teaching assistants providing essential support to children with special educational needs and disabilities
  • Increase class size
  • Reduce subject choices – including no longer offering music, art or drama
  • Cut extra-curricular provision, including after-school clubs and school trips
  • Cut catch-up measures for children particularly affected by the pandemic, including the national tutoring program
  • Cut support for vulnerable learners with SEND or debilitating mental health issues
  • Cut attendance support, even in very deprived areas where it is vital
  • Cancellation of proposed repairs to dilapidated school and college buildings

The letter outlines how the shortfall is likely to impact middle schools, but says parents will soon be able to gauge the impact on individual schools through the actual launch of the School Cuts website during the next two weeks.

As such, he urges MPs to ‘convert’ the crisis by ensuring that candidates standing to become the next Prime Minister only get their vote if they pledge to deliver on the manifesto pledge of 2019 on funding, to increase funding in line with inflation, to ensure that schools can access the energy assistance program beyond the six months already announced until March 2023 and to provide funds to pay for teacher salary increases.

The letter concludes that they are writing “on behalf of young people” who have made “tremendous sacrifices to protect others” during the pandemic, and who “would not forgive us if their chances in life were further reduced.”

The full letter is published below

October 22, 2022

An open letter to Tory MPs on the school and college funding crisis ahead of this week’s leadership election

Dear colleagues

We write as leaders of national education organizations across the UK. Between us, we represent and support the vast majority of leaders, teachers, governors, administrators, parents, and support staff in our schools and colleges.

As Conservative MPs, you have an important responsibility over the next few days: electing our future Prime Minister.

In 2019, the Conservative Party pledged in a manifesto to restore funding in real terms to schools to 2010 levels. Instead, current forecasts predict a shortfall of £2billion by 2024 This desperate situation will get even worse if further cuts are imposed by the Treasury after the October 31 declaration.

We urge you to support your party’s 2019 manifesto pledge by seeking assurances from leadership candidates to deliver on your promise to restore school and college funding to 2010 levels, should they become leader.

A funding shortfall of this magnitude cannot be absorbed by schools and colleges without seriously affecting the quality of education. Simply put, they will not be able to afford to continue providing the education that pupils and students deserve.

It has become clear that schools and colleges serving the poorest communities are likely to be hit hardest by funding challenges, at a time when the achievement gap between poor students and their more affluent peers reached a ten-year high.

There are now parts of the school grounds that are in a dangerous state. The pace of rebuilding schools means the buildings are expected to last 400 years, raising significant security concerns. Not only is capital investment in education good for children, it is good for the economy and can help the country return to growth.

Leaders and governors must make heartbreaking choices about what they can and cannot afford to do. The decisions they make include:

  • Make teachers and support staff redundant – including teaching assistants providing essential support to children with special educational needs and disabilities
  • Increase class size
  • Reduce subject choices – including no longer offering music, art or drama
  • Cut extra-curricular provision, including after-school clubs and school trips
  • Cut the catch-up offer for children particularly affected by the pandemic,

including the delivery of the national tutoring program

  • Cut support for vulnerable learners with SEND or debilitating mental health issues
  • Cut attendance support, even in very deprived areas where it is vital
  • Cancellation of proposed repairs to dilapidated school and college buildings

The scale of these cuts is unprecedented, even in the context of a decade of education underfunding. They will have a direct impact on the ability of schools and colleges to maintain teaching standards. In some cases, they will compromise the well-being of children.

The funding crisis is the result of a number of factors, which came together to create a perfect storm. These include:

  • A significant decline in real funding for schools and colleges due to inflation. Funding in real terms per student is lower than it was in 2015-2016. In 2015-16 it was £6,206 and in 2022-23 it is £231 lower. The purchasing power of schools and colleges is £1.6bn lower than it was in 2015-16, or 3.7%. According to the highly respected and independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, by 2024 school spending per student will still be 3% lower than in 2010 in real terms. The situation is significantly worse for sixth and FE middle schools.
  • Skyrocketing energy costs, which are only partially offset by the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, even this partial offset is only guaranteed for the next five months.
  • No additional government funding to cover essential salary increases for teachers and support staff.
  • Schools and colleges take on significant additional financial burdens to support children and families in growing poverty.

Without a commitment to invest more, our analysis shows that an average primary school in your constituency will face a shortfall of £35-45,000 by September 2024, which is the equivalent of two support staff or a teacher ; while an average secondary school will face a shortfall of £200-250,000 by 2024, which would equate to around four to five teachers. These are average numbers. But the next fortnight will see the relaunch of the School Cuts website, which will allow parents to see the likely impact of these spending cuts in their child’s school.

We urge all Tory MPs to consider the impact of underfunding our schools and colleges on the life chances of children and young people, and on the government’s ability to drive growth to ensure that the Kingdom United to be competitive on the world stage.

We therefore invite you to ask the following questions of potential candidates for the leadership of the party and the post of Prime Minister, before voting:

1. Will you commit to the 2019 school funding manifesto commitment to return funding in real terms to 2010 levels?

2. Will you commit to increasing funding for schools and colleges in line with inflation?
3. Will you ensure that schools and colleges can access the Energy Bill Relief

Plan beyond March 2023?
4. Will you ensure that salary increases for teachers and support staff are fully funded?

This is a crucial opportunity to avert a crisis that will otherwise have a devastating impact on children and young people, who are already suffering from the scars of education disruption due to the pandemic.

Education felt as if it was on the sidelines of political priorities. This must change. During the pandemic, our young people have made enormous sacrifices to protect others. They will not forgive us if their chances in life are further reduced.

We write on their behalf.

Yours,

David Hughes, Executive Director, Association of Colleges
Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the NAHT Principals’ Union
Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts
Patrick Roach, general secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT
Kevin Courtney and Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union
Emma Knights, Executive Director, National Governance Association

John Jolly, Managing Director, Parentkind
Bill Watkin, Executive Director, Sixth Form Colleges Association
Mike Short, National Secretary, Education, Local Government, Policing and Justice, UNISON
Andrew Murray, National Education Manager, Unite the union

Avril Chambers, National Officer, GMB Union
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community Union