Today's announcement of the Government's plans for 'National Funding for Schools' confirmed all that the NUT and other unions have been warning now for months - the Tories are intent on savage cuts that will threaten children's education, as well as the jobs, pay and working conditions of thousands of school staff.
It's not just unions who are sounding the alarm bells. Our warnings have also been confirmed in a report by the National Audit Office explaining that schools now face having to find savings of £3 billion by
2019-20, equating to an 8 per cent real-terms reduction in funding – the
worst since the mid-1990s.
The attempts by the Tories to cover up these cuts by using a new 'National Funding Formula' to redistribute spending from some areas to others should fool nobody. The vast majority of schools will still lose out overall, but some - particularly in big cities like London - will see an even greater budget cut.
Today's NUT press release explains what is at stake:
“Far from being the levelling up that some councils and heads have demanded, this is a levelling down. Even the schools currently worst funded will see real terms cuts in this Parliament.
“The Government’s proposed changes to the school funding system do not begin to address the key issue for schools, which is the Government’s imposition of the biggest real terms cuts in a generation. Funding cannot be ‘fair’ if it is not sufficient. Even those schools gaining under the new system are likely to see those gains more than offset by the real cuts to school funding overall. All the Government can offer is a programme of real terms cuts, unevenly distributed – creating new problems in some areas and failing to tackle existing problems in the remaining areas. Refusing to address the problems caused by its programme of real terms cuts means the Government refuses to engage in the proper and objective discussion we need on how to fund schools to meet their real needs.
“The NUT has told the Government that it must support any new funding formula with enough extra money to ensure real terms increases for schools, so that much needed funding increases for schools in some areas are not paid for by cuts for schools in other areas. No school can afford to lose funding without it affecting the life chances of children. That argument has been ignored.
“On its current direction of travel, the Government will cause lasting damage to our children's futures. The lack of significant new funding is jeopardising the chances of a good education for all. Government ministers should remember that children only have one chance to attend school.
“The Government’s funding policy will take money away from the vast majority of schools. Every school faces the effects of the Government's failure to increase funding per pupil in line with inflation and its decision to pile new costs on schools through higher national insurance and pension contributions. The NUT predicts that in real terms, 90% or more of schools will be worse off even after this funding ‘reform’, including many of the most deprived areas.
“The National Audit Office has today reported that Government funding policy will force schools to make cuts of £3.0 billion by 2020 - equating to an 8.0% real-terms cut in per-pupil funding - but that the DfE cannot be sure that schools can achieve such savings and has no idea of the actual cost of running schools in order to achieve the desired educational outcomes.
“Today's decision to redistribute funding without putting in the extra money needed to protect some schools against even bigger cuts shows that the Government doesn't really care about the impact of its funding policy either.”
While the documentation released today is still being analysed by the NUT, the information already available makes clear that Inner London will be worst hit. This table from the consultation confirms that, on top of the 8.0% cuts, Inner London schools will suffer a further 2.4% cut on average overall, taking 2016-17 budgets as the baseline. The vast majority of Inner London schools will see additional cuts on top of those applying nationally, as confirmed by the National Audit Office. However, many schools in other regions will also be hit by the Government's attempts to 'rob Peter to pay Paul' in order to disguise the attacks they are making on education right across the country.
Further analysis will follow - and so must further action if we are to defend education from these cuts.