Tories fight back over funding but PR can't deny crippling school investment

Janet Downs's picture

DfE denies schools are 'worth less' but heads say otherwise

The Tories appear spooked by rising concern about inadequate school funding.  Even before last Friday’s headteacher protest, twitter @WorthlessFF,  the Department for Education (DfE) cranked up the rhetoric.

Under the sub-heading Worth Less?, the DfE said on Thursday:

‘There is more money going into schools than ever before...’  And on Friday, a second blog appeared:  ‘real terms per pupil funding in 2020 will be more than 50% higher than it was in 2000.’

DfE data shows slow down in funding after 2010

DfE statistics show real terms per pupil spending has risen since 2002-3.   But these show the greater rise in spending took place before 2010/11.  Spending continued to rise from 2010/11 but more slowly.

Between 2002/3 and 2010/11, real terms per pupil spending rose from £4k to £5.5k – that’s £1.5k extra per pupil in nine years.  From 2010/11, the rise in spending stalled.  In 2016/17, per pupil spending had risen by just £289 in the intervening six years to £5,789.

DfE presentation avoids negative comparison with Labour years

It’s not surprising the DfE doesn’t want this negative comparison to become well-known.  Instead, its blog compared funding between this year to a decade ago and to 2000.

the average primary school class [27 pupils] is receiving £132,000 this year up from £124,000 a decade ago and £84,000 in 2000’

It doesn’t take A level Maths to realise the largest rise in spending was between 2000 and 2007/8. 

Secondary class funding rose faster before 2007/08

The same is true of secondary class funding.  The largest rise, £52k, was in the seven years up to 2007/08 before slowing to £10k in the decade up to 2017/18, the blog makes clear.

DfE says it’s helping schools make ‘the best use’ of resources

Teachers could be forgiven for resenting the DfE’s patronising tone.    It’s helping school leaders to make the best use of their resources.  This has already been mocked by Private Eye

It’s introducing a National Funding Formula.  This is overdue.  But the figures are puzzling.  The minimum an average sized primary class will receive is £89k, the DfE says.  This is somewhat short of the average of £132k which the DfE says such classes are receiving now.  It’s misleading to compare averages and minimum, of course.  But the gap between tomorrow's minimum primary class funding and today's average seems rather large.

It’s launching a ‘new free website’ for advertising school vacancies.  But one already exists.  And it’s one that doesn’t cost taxpayers any money.  

Teacher pay compares well with other countries, says DfE

An ‘average classroom teacher in their 20s is paid £2,000 more than the average graduate,’ the blog says.  But the OECD said starting salary for teachers in England is ‘comparatively low’ although salary does rise rapidly. 

The DfE cites the OECD finding that teachers’ salaries after 15 years exceed the OECD average.  But the OECD also found salary progression stalled after 15 years, something the DfE doesn’t mention.

The DfE says it ‘will continue to work with school leaders and teachers to raise standards even further.’  But in truth it’s still not listening.   

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