Government cuts to schooling mean a pupil who started school in England in 2010 has lost out on £5,384 of education funding by the time they graduate sixth form this year, according to new research published by UNISON.
Independent analysis, commissioned by the union from economic experts Landman Economics, shows the cumulative effect of Conservative cuts. It shows that, even with the increased money promised for each pupil in the 2022 Autumn Statement, funding remains significantly below 2010 levels.
Between 2010/11 and 2022/23, spending per pupil fell from £7,274 to £6,982 – a drop of 4%. This means many hundreds of pounds less spent on each student every year relative to 2010 funding levels.
The chart below tracks spending on a pupil who started reception in 2009/10 and reached year 13 in 2022/23.
Analysis from Landman Economics – Source: IFS (2022), Figure 5.1 Note: spending for 2020/21 estimated by interpolation between 2019/20 and 2021/22 because actual figures for 2020/21 were distorted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pressure on school budgets inevitably has consequences for the quality of education being provided. It means larger class sizes, fewer support staff, reduced access to student support services, cuts to the curriculum, cuts to extra-curricular provision and reduced support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – all of which jeopardise the learning outcomes of millions of children.
In addition to significant cuts to funding per pupil, schools have seen capital spending on school buildings decline by 37% in cash terms and 50% in real terms*. Many buildings contain asbestos as well as materials that were never intended to still be in use, such as the concrete RAAC, leaving children at risk.
UNISON head of education, Mike Short, said: “These figures show the heavy price that young people are paying for a Conservative government.
“It is deeply unfair that today’s cohort of young people will leave school this summer after losing out on thousands of pounds worth of education. They have studied in buildings long past their best before date, with fewer resources to help them learn and less support from staff.
“It’s time for this government to invest in Britain’s future by restoring school funding. The secretary of state for education and the chancellor need to find the money to ensure young people get the best start in life.”
* Cuts in capital funding are from the House of Commons Library report School Buildings and Capital Funding (England), published in January 2023.