Education Funding


  • The cuts being implemented by the Conservative Government put education at risk. The General Election showed that education funding is hugely important to voters, but Government announcements since the General Election have been disappointing and will not stop the huge cuts hitting schools now. The Budget on 22 November and the Spring Statement failed schools.  Increased funding is desperately needed to safeguard our children’s education. We are asking the Government to change course – invest, don’t cut.
  • The impact of inflation, and extra costs such as higher employer NI and pension contributions, means that the actual value of funding per pupil in real-terms will fall by as much as 8 per cent or more. A 2017 National Audit Office (NAO) report states that mainstream schools will have to make £3 billion in ‘efficiency savings’ by 2019-20 against the backdrop of the increased costs.1
  • The NEU and other education unions have launched an interactive website which shows how much schools in England and Wales are likely to lose in real terms, according to the Government’s plans for school funding. It also shows how much sixth form colleges are losing as a result of cuts to 16-19 education funding. 
  • The funding problems will be hugely increased for many schools by the Government’s plans to introduce a National Funding Formula (NFF) for schools.  The NUT response is available here:
  • A NFF for schools will redistribute funding around the country but due to the Government’s real-terms cuts every part of England have lost out. The removal of local decision making on the allocation of funding, in favour of tighter control of funding from Whitehall, will adversely impact accountability, transparency and local democratic control of education funding.
  • The Government has changed the system for allocating funding for high needs/SEND pupils to schools and academies. It has not, however, conducted a proper assessment of the funding needed to provide high quality support for such pupils. Local authorities play a vital role in supporting schools by providing specialist support services and expertise as well as coordinating high needs provision.
  • Government cuts to local authority funding mean a significant reduction in the support available to schools, while the changes to the high needs funding system do not take account of the value that local authority support can add. Local authority cuts are also putting extra strain on home to school transport for disabled children. The NEU believes the Government is failing in its duty to provide proper support for pupils with high needs and it will continue to argue for adequate funding levels.
  • Although school funding was maintained in real-terms per pupil under the Coalition Government, all additional funding was provided via the Pupil Premium, targeted at particular pupils and therefore distributed unevenly.2 Many schools had to use Pupil Premium funding simply to plug the gaps caused by cuts in the value of other funding.
  • In March 2017 the NUT and ATL surveyed their members on funding cuts in their schools, as already experienced and expected. The findings showed:
    • 76 per cent of respondents said their school had already experienced a budget cut for 2016-17.  Only 4 per cent were able to say that their school’s budget had increased - in almost all cases due to rising pupil numbers;
    • Half of all respondents reported that class sizes had risen since last year;
    • Half reported that teaching posts had already been cut and almost two thirds reported that classroom support staff posts had been cut – with further staffing cuts expected next year;
    • Almost three quarters reported cuts in spending on books and equipment;
    • Almost half reported cuts in special educational needs provision; and
    • One in six reported that their school had been driven to ask parents for financial contributions to help with funding.
  • The Education Services Grant (ESG), which funds spending on school improvement, management of school buildings and tackling non-attendance, was cut by £200 million (around 20 per cent) in 2015-16. There will be a further cut of £600 million between 2016-17 and 2019-20 and the LA role will reduce, meaning even less support for schools. Plans for further deep cuts in funding for services provided by local authorities will also have an impact on young people. These will cause cuts to services to schools such as school improvement, behavioural and pupil support services, music services and outdoor education as well as to services such as libraries, youth services and child protection.
  • Early years’ funding is also a concern. The Government’s simplistic approach to early years’ reforms will impact on nursery schools particularly hard. The level of funding provided to different providers will be levelled out but Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) providers can increase their fees to adjust for this. Maintained schools with nursery provision cannot do so. This coupled with the requirement to employ qualified teachers means that nursery schools and other schools with early years’ provision face significant additional costs compared to PVI providers.
  • Following pressure from NEU and others on early years funding, the Government made some changes to its proposals, providing some additional transitional funding and allowing some funding on the basis of quality. However, the sector still faces cuts and its long-term sustainability is under threat.
  • Funding for 16-19 education overall was devastated under the Coalition Government, with huge real-terms cuts estimated at 14 per cent. 3The Government has done nothing to restore these real terms cuts; instead they will continue.  Taking inflation into account, this is likely between 2016 and 2020 to mean a real terms cut of some 8 per cent4  The cumulative impact of funding cuts since 2011 meant by November 2017 that 50 per cent of colleges and schools that responded to a survey had dropped modern foreign language courses, 34 percent had dropped science, technology, engineering and maths courses, 77 per cent of them had increased class sizes - and 58 per cent disagreed that the funding allocated for 2018-19 would be sufficient to provide a high quality education5. 
  • The National Audit Office has reported capital spending on schools and colleges has been cut by over one-third in real-terms since 2010-11.6 The Building Schools for the Future programme was scrapped in 2010, cancelling 700 building projects. The replacement Priority School Building Project has a fraction of the funding - not all schools that applied to the project for funding were successful and not all of those that were will be rebuilt or fully refurbished as they would have been under the BSF. The NAO report stated that it would cost some £6.7 billion to repair all school buildings to a satisfactory standard.7
  • Despite the growing shortage of school places in many areas, particularly in primary, and the teacher recruitment crisis, the Conservative Government is continuing to prioritise funding for its ideologically-driven academies and free schools programme.  Forty two free schools have opened in areas with no predicted need for additional places, at a cost of at least £241 million.8
  • Although the Government has, under pressure from the NEU and others, allocated extra funding for school places, local authorities say that this is not enough to fund the places needed. The impact of any new funding will be hampered by the Government’s insistence that any new schools must be academies or free schools. (see our Edufact School Places Crisis
  • Government cuts are affecting Welsh schools as well. Although the first minister has committed to increase spending on education by 1 per cent more than the increase in the block grant to Wales every year, this won’t be enough to cope with the cost increases from inflation and other sources. As in England, Welsh schools are being forced to find in year budget cuts resulting in teacher and support staff job losses, increased class sizes, lack of resources and inadequate school buildings. Schools in Wales have also had to use the Pupil Premium to plug gaps in funding shortages.
  • Per pupil funding for Welsh schools has generally been lower than in English schools – the most recent figure from 2011 showed that the funding gap had risen to £604 per pupil.9 No figures have been released since then, as the Welsh Government’s chief statistician decided that comparisons were no longer able to be made.

1National Audit Office: Financial Sustainability of Schools, December 2016:

2IFS / Sibieta/Chowdry School Funding Reform: Briefing note BN123:

3 IFS / Sibieta Schools Spending: Briefing note BN168:

4 TES, 25 November 2015:

5James Kewin and Vanessa Donhowe (2017),Support Our Sixth-formers Campaign: Funding Impact Survey Report, London; Sixth Form Colleges Association, pages 1 and 6:

6 IFS / Sibieta Schools Spending: Briefing note BN168

7 National Audit Office: Financial Sustainability of Schools, December 2016:

8 Public Accounts Committee: Establishing free schools, page 15:

9 BBC News 26 January 2011: