Schools face real-term cuts of seven per cent, IFS warns

School spending per pupil across England is expected to fall by at least seven per cent in real-terms between 2015-16 and 2019-20, according to a new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The report also found wide variation in spending per pupil across the country, with the gap widening over recent years.

Figures show that in 2013-14 10 per cent of secondary pupils attended schools that spent more than £7,800 per pupil while 10 per cent attended schools that spent less than £5,100.

The IFS claims that spending in England has become increasingly targeted at schools with pupils from poorer backgrounds over the last 20 years. The poorest fifth schools, as defined by the number of pupils eligible for free school meals, spent on average 31 per cent more per pupil than the richest fifth. This represents a large increase from the 1990s, when the difference was just 15 per cent.

The report also looked to gain an understanding of the total amount spent per pupil over their school life. On average, students taking their GCSEs in 2015 had £57,000 spent on them over the course of their schooling career between reception and year 11. However, there is also wide variation in total spending, with 10 per cent having less than £49,000 spent on them and 10 per cent having more than £67,000 spent on them.

The figures come as the government is planning the introduction of a new national funding formula, which aims to simplify the school funding into one formula for the whole country.

Commenting on the report, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “We welcome this detailed analysis from the IFS. This backs up what our members have been saying. With flat cash education spending at a time of rising costs, school budgets are being pushed to breaking point.

“On the wide discrepancy between local authorities on school spending, we hope the planned national funding formula will help remedy this. We have long campaigned to see funding go directly to schools, so welcome government plans to do just that. School leaders will hope the new formula will deliver funding in a fair and transparent way.”

Chris Belfield, one of the authors of the report, said: “Over the past two decades, school spending has become increasingly targeted at the schools with the most deprived intakes; the Pupil Premium continued rather than started this trend. This represents a major shift in the role of the state, with the school funding system playing an increasingly important role in redistribution.”

Luke Sibieta, the other author of the report, said: “The introduction of a national funding formula for schools in England looks set to be one of the most radical shake-ups of school funding in at least the past 30 years. Replacing 152 different formulae with one single, simple formula will inevitably lead to substantial changes in funding across schools and, for good or bad, will almost completely remove local authorities from the school funding system.”

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