But DfE capital budget set to decrease by £1b by 2020/21
£400 million pounds will be given to schools for ‘little extras’, Chancellor Philip Hammond said yesterday.
He announced the extra money as if he expected schools to grovel with gratitude at such largesse. But he was mistaken.
The handout, around £10k for a primary school and £50k for a secondary school, can only be used for capital expenditure, Schools Week reports. It can’t be used to partially fund the teachers’ pay rise, for example. Schools must use it for maintenance or equipment.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told Schools Week the £400m ‘hardly scratches the surface of what is needed.’ Hammond’s belief that his bounty would ‘buy the little extras they need’ showed a ‘complete misunderstanding of the prevailing funding pressures’.
Halloween trick not a treat
The Chancellor’s announcement was an eve of Halloween trick, not a treat. It was a trick because it presented penny-pinching as generosity.
It was a trick because it masked the forecast reduction of capital expenditure on schools from £5.6 billion in 2018/19 to £4.5 billion in 2020/21.
And it was a trick because Hammond preceded his announcement with this:
‘We are investing record amounts in our schools and that investment is paying off, with 86% of schools now rated good or outstanding, compared to 68% in 2010.’
‘Record amounts’ of school funding represent an actual fall
The ‘record amounts’ represent a real-terms reduction in spending. Between 2010/11 and 2015/16, school funding fell by about 14% in real terms, taking it back to the same level it was in 2005/06, the Institute of Fiscal Studies found:
‘Spending per pupil is expected to fall by 6.5% in real terms between 2015–16 and 2019–20. This will be the first time schools have seen real-terms cuts in spending per pupil since the mid 1990s.’
Inspection data lacked context
The inspection data, although correct, lacked context. Omitting the background to the rise in good and better schools was one of the criticisms voiced by the UK Statistics watchdog in its severe remprimand of the Department for Education for the way it spins statistics.
The increase in good and better inspection outcomes, which now appears to have stalled, has more to do with changes in the way Ofsted inspects schools.
£400 million is ‘nice little gesture’, says Hammond
Hammond claims the £400 million ‘bonanza’ for schools wasn’t ‘inadequate’, the Daily Mail reports. It was nothing to do with the Spending Review but a ‘nice little gesture’ which many schools would appreciate. The Treasury had ‘put £1.3 billion of additional money into schools funding last year’.
But this £1.3 billion wasn’t ‘additional’. It was funded by efficiency savings at the Department for Education.
Schools may be forgiven for thinking the nice little gesture is a dismissive wave.