Schools need multi-billion pound investment, say MPs

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Schools and colleges are in need of a 10-year plan to fix the broken education funding system, the Education Committee said today (19 July).

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A report by the committee says funding has not kept pace with the rising demands placed on schools and colleges. MPs say there is a £3.8 billion annual funding gap.

The cross-party committee’s inquiry found that, as well as coping with growing pupil numbers and rising costs, schools were increasingly being asked to cover extra services – such as mental health, social issues and more complex special educational needs and disabilities provision – without adequate resources, putting the sector under significant strain over the past decade.

MPs say there is a £3.8 billion annual funding gap.
The cross-party Education Select Committee’s inquiry found that, as well as coping with growing pupil numbers and rising costs, schools were increasingly being asked to cover extra services – such as mental health, social issues and more complex special educational needs and disabilities provision – without adequate resources, putting the sector under significant strain over the past decade.

The report also criticised the role of advisers used by the Department for Education, which had been uncovered by the Schools Week website, including cost-saving suggestions that schools keep money raised for charity and cut the size of school meals for children.

A report by the Education Select Committee says funding has not kept pace with the rising demands placed on schools and colleges. The report shows that further education has been hardest hit, with post-16 funding per student falling by 16 per cent in real terms over the past decade. MPs urge a £1 billion boost.

Committee chair Robert Halfon MP said, ‘Substantial amounts of money have been allocated to education by the Government, but spending has not kept pace with the growing demands placed on our schools and colleges. Alongside the ten-year plan, the Government needs to cover the 8 per cent funding gap currently faced by schools.

‘There is a crisis of confidence in the ability of mainstream schools to provide adequate SEND support. This needs to be tackled through increased school funding to support better early intervention. The Government must also spend an extra £1 billion to address the projected high needs deficit.’

He also said that there should be automatic enrolment so that all eligible students receive Pupil Premium, and previously unclaimed money should be clawed back from the Treasury to help the most disadvantaged pupils. Pupil Premium should also be extended to 16-19 education.

‘To make sure we are giving schools and colleges the money they need, we are calling for a comprehensive, bottom-up national assessment of the real-world costs of delivering a quality education. A proper ten-year plan and long-term funding settlement would provide stability for schools and colleges and help ensure that our education system is fit for the 21st century.’

‘Millions spent on advisers’

In 2018, the DfE  began piloting the use of contracted ‘school resource management advisers’ (SMRAs) who were sent to schools to identify resource efficiencies.

The committee said, ‘We heard disturbing reports that the Department was spending millions on ‘school resource management advisers’ whose cost-saving suggestions included keeping money raised at charity events, cutting children’s food portions, and using spare staff to cover three simultaneous classes in a school dining hall. The Minister said these recommendations had been taken “out of context”. We call on the Department to release the full reports to us, to show the context in which the recommendations were made.

‘In response to this report, the Department should provide us with the full documents described by Schools Week, a breakdown by category of the measures suggested by school resource management advisers across the country, how much the resource advisers cost, and an evaluation of the long-term value for money provided by their cost-saving recommendations.’

KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

  • ensure schools get the multi-billion pound investment they desperately need;
  • urgently address underfunding in further education by increasing the base rate from £4,000 to at least £4,760, rising in line with inflation;
  • increase school funding by raising the age-weighted pupil unit value;
  • increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities to address a projected £1.2 billion deficit;
  • implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as feasible, and make the various funding formulae more forward-looking and less reliant on historical factors;
  • ensure all eligible students attract Pupil Premium and overcome existing barriers to automatic enrolment as a matter of priority;
  • secure from the Treasury the full amount of estimated Pupil Premium money that has not been claimed because students did not register for free school meals, and allocate this money to disadvantaged children; and
  • extend the Pupil Premium to provide for 16–19 year olds.

Kevin Courtney, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said, 'This all-party report is a vindication of the School Cuts campaign and every single teacher and parent who has called out the Government on its negligence in failing to fund schools and colleges. This is the Conservatives’ own mess. The question now is whether the new Prime Minister will listen. Candidates have pledged extra money for education during their campaigns, but schools need more than promises on the side of a bus. Schools need real money for real children in real schools now.'

Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, said, ‘This report from a cross-party committee chaired by a Conservative former Education Minister is the latest evidence that Tory cuts have damaged our schools and colleges and failed a whole generation of children.

‘Tory cuts have left schools begging parents for donations just to keep the lights on five days a week and pay for basic supplies like pens and paper, whilst Further Education colleges have seen their budgets cut in half.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said, ‘We welcome this detailed and considered report from the Education Select Committee and will respond in full in due course.

'While it is accurate to say that school funding is at its highest level, we do recognise that there are budgeting challenges. This Government is investing more than ever before in early education and childcare and since 2010 the overall core schools budget for 5 to 16 year olds has been protected in real terms.


‘We have also protected the base rate of funding for 16 to 19 year olds until 2020 and are providing additional funding for the delivery of the new gold standard T Levels, rising to an additional £500m every year once they are fully rolled out.

'We are glad to see that school and further education funding is being highlighted as an important issue ahead of the next spending review, where the Education Secretary will back the sector to have the resources they need to deliver world-class standards across the board.'

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