School Funding

Spending on school resources frozen at 2016 levels – BESA

Spending on teaching aids and equipment is frozen below 2015-2016 levels as schools face mounting financial pressures, according to data seen by Your.

Spending on these resources will be on average £55 per primary pupil and £49 per secondary pupil in 2022-23, around 25% less than in 2015-16, according to data collected by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

BESA chief executive Caroline Wright described the trend as “worrying”, while the Association of School and College Leaders says it reflects the “significant cuts” schools need to make.

The figures come amid concerns from school leaders that a perfect storm of financial pressure will put huge pressure on school budgets this year – and that the quality of education and support for students will suffer.

Expenditure on aids and equipment – which includes all classroom teaching and learning expenditure excluding ICT, furniture and stationery – had increased in secondary schools until 2018-2019, but then saw a sharp decline.

A subsequent increase in 2021-22 is now expected to be reversed in 2022-23, according to BESA data, which comes from 752 primary and 452 secondary schools.

Meanwhile, spending on teaching materials and materials in the primary grades fell slightly in 2019-20 before rising in 2020-21. However, in 2022-2023, it is still expected to remain around 7% lower than in 2015-2016.

Overall, in primary and secondary education, all expenditure on resources – including ICT, furniture, stationery and teaching and learning resources – will decrease by 3% between 2021-22 and 22-23, predicts BESA.

Speaking as part of the Tes Magazine Education Insights expert group (see below for details), Ms Wright said schools needed resources to “inspire children”.

She said: “It’s a really worrying situation. We’ve all talked about the pressure on schools to support students.

“Obviously with teachers you need a really safe and welcoming environment, but you also need resources to be able to inspire the kids. So that’s a big challenge.”

BESA data shows an average resource expenditure forecast of £15,270 per primary school in 2022-23, up from £16,510 in 2015-16.

In secondary the figures were £49,660 and £62,370 respectively.

Responding to the findings, Hayley Dunn, a business leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said school budgets been under pressure for many years, leaving them no choice but to make significant budget cuts, and the worsening of the situation caused by the increase in energy bills could “partly” explain the level of expenditure of the resources.

She added: “The government must help relieve the financial pressure on schools and colleges by improving the level of funding they receive.”

Prioritized “sensory” resources

Ms Wright also said that in general schools were returning to purchasing sensory and practical equipment, after a slight increase in ICT spending during the pandemic.

She added: “What we’ve seen throughout the lockdown and the return to schools has been a huge increase in terms of the use of digital resources.

“What we’re seeing now in primary schools, in particular, is a decline in the use of digital resources and a backlash in terms of the purchase of play equipment, manual type sensory equipment. Teachers know if children have missed out on some of these really important social skills and they are effectively adapting their own classrooms and schools.”

She was speaking in a panel that also included Cathie Paine from REAch2 and Rebecca Boomer-Clark from AET, as well as Professor Becky Francis, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation.

Coming out of the pandemic, projections of BESA data for 2021-22 suggest that spending on ICT hardware and software will fall by 2% in the primaries, while spending on teaching materials and materials will increase by 9%.

Funding squeeze

In 2022-23, base funding for schools will increase by £4bn compared to 2021-22, resulting in a 5% increase in real terms per pupil.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that spending per student in 2024 will be about the same as in 2010, as it fell 9% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-20.

BESA data is based on school self-reporting based on their financial years. Schools report maintained for April to March period and Academies report for September to August period.

All data was collected in November and December last year.

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

Tes Magazine Education Insights is a new offering from Tes magazine that features an in-depth monthly report on the education sector as well as a webinar featuring leading figures from academia, education research and the business sector. You can download the first report and the webinar for free here.