“There is more money going into our schools in this country than ever before.
We know that real-terms funding per pupil is increasing across the system, and with the national funding formula, each school will see at least a small cash increase”
That’s what the new education secretary, Damian Hinds, told parliament on Monday.
Two out of three of his claims are wrong, according to independent experts.
“There is more money going into our schools in this country than ever before”
This is true.
As Chris Belfield, research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, points out: “inflation and increasing student numbers means that total cash terms spending is higher than ever before.”
Take note of the phrase “cash terms”. It means we’re not talking in “real terms”, which would account for inflation. This distinction will come in handy later…
“We know that real-terms funding per pupil is increasing across the system”
This is not true, according to the IFS.
In cash terms, the average funding per pupil is rising, but in real terms (i.e. accounting for inflation) it will be flat for the next two years.
The Department for Education told us: “As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has confirmed, its published analysis shows that school funding has increased significantly in real terms per pupil since the 1990s. Source here (page 18 – figure 3.1)”
The Department added: “the IFS is clear that schools have seen significant real terms per pupil increases in funding over the long-term, and per pupil funding is being maintained in real terms between 2017-18 and 2019-20. Source here”
Chris Belfield co-wrote both of the IFS papers that the Department for Education cited in their response. We put Damian Hinds’ claim that “real-terms funding per pupil is increasing” to him.
He told FactCheck: “This is not true. The additional £1.3 billion of funding announced in July 2017 (£900 million for 2018-19 and £400 million for 2019-20) will mean that average funding per pupil will be roughly constant in real terms over the next two years.”
“with the national funding formula, each school will see at least a small cash increase”
Chris Belfield again: “This is not true. The national funding formula states that no school will be attributed less than a 0.5 per cent increase per year.
“However, this funding is allocated to local authorities rather than directly to schools. Local authorities then decide how to allocate funding to schools using their own formulae.
“Under current proposals, a local authority can provide a maximum cut of 1.5 per cent per pupil to a school (this is known as the Minimum Funding Guarantee). This cut could be the result of changing characteristics of the school – such as fewer students from deprived backgrounds.”
The Department for Education told FactCheck: “We’ve always been clear that local authorities will decide what each school should get during the transitional period, as we have not legislated [for the national funding formula], and that this will be dependent on pupil characteristics.
“However our formula will allocate every school a cash increase and LAs will receive funding according to this formula. For the cash increases for each school, you can find detail in our formula impact statement [here].”
So some schools will see a cash-terms increase in their budgets, but some may see funding cut, depending on what local authorities decide. Mr Hinds’ predecessor, Justine Greening, was more careful in her description of the policy back in July.
She said: “Fairer schools funding… will ensure every local authority is in a position to give schools a cash increase through the new formula.”
In other words, she acknowledged that whether individual schools get a cash increase would be up to local authorities. That’s quite different to Mr Hinds’ assertion, which strongly implies that every school would be guaranteed a cash-terms rise.