Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak boasts per pupil funding will ‘return to 2010 levels’

Unions say funding in Budget for Covid catch-up ‘falls far short’ of money required

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 27 October 2021 14:27
Budget 2021: Sunak pledges to restore per pupil funding 'to 2010 levels’

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has boasted that per pupil funding will return “2010 levels” in real terms by 2024-25 — after more than a decade of Conservative austerity.

Unveiling the Budget, Mr Sunak said an extra £4.7 billion will be made available, “which combined with the ambitious plans announced at the spending review of 2019 will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms”.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), between 2009-10 and 2018-19, spending per pupil fell by eight per cent in real terms in England, but rose again afterwards to “reach just below 2009-10 levels”.

“Not much of a boast really to say that school spending per pupils will return to 2010 levels,” the IFS director responded. “A decade and a half without growth is quite a thing”.

On the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Sunak said a further £2 billion would be made available for recovery — but still way short of the figure recommended by the former education catch up tzar.

In June, Sir Kevan Collins resigned from the position in protest at the funding package offered by the government, describing it as falling “far short of what is needed” and warned: “A half-hearted approach risks failing hundreds of thousands of pupils”.

In an evidence session to MPs after quitting the post, Sir Kevan said there were proposals he presented to government that “got to £15 billion”.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said that while the extra funding announced at the Budget on Wednesday was welcome it still “falls far short of the £13-15 billion independent experts have said is needed”.

“The government has made bold claims about ‘levelling up’ and ‘no child left behind’,” he added. “The investment announced today doesn’t meet those goals or the futures needs of the country.

“The increase in per pupil spending announced by the government takes us back to 2010 levels. This is no proud boast, as it represents a failure to invest in children’s futures for over a decade.”

Echoing this view, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Geoff Barton, said: “We fear this Budget falls a long way short of what is needed in terms of investment in education, but recognise that there is at least some progress in the right direction.”

Mr Barton added: “We hear the chancellor’s claim that the investment in schools will restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels.

“However, we will need to see the detail of the overall spending plans and commitments before knowing the full implications. Even in the best-case analysis this still represents no growth in school funding for 15 years, and this commitment does not address the stark reality in 16-19 education where the learner rate is far too low.”

During the statement, Mr Sunak also announced a £300 million “start for life” parenting programme — with an extra £170 million by 2024/5 going into paying for childcare.

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