A prominent thinktank has warned that schools in England are facing their first significant cuts to funding since the mid-1990s. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), spending per pupil is to fall by 6.5% by 2019-20. Although the IFS notes that school funding has been well protected over the past two decades, funding for 16- to 18-year-olds is no higher than it was almost 30 years ago. Over this period, sixth-form budgets have already reduced by 6.7%, with a further 6.5% reduction anticipated over the next few years.
A new IFS report considers education spending across various age groups, ranging from early years provision to universities, over a number of years. The report reveals that spending on schoolchildren in England has seen the greatest increase over the past 20 years, with £4,900 spent on each primary school pupil and £6,300 spent per secondary student. In both cases, this represents almost double the amount expended in the mid-1990s. Nevertheless, the report predicts a 6.5% cut in education spending by 2020, a period which will see real-terms cuts to spending per pupil since the mid-1990s.
When examined over the past 25 years, further education has been the sector that has lost most from spending changes. The IFS report adds that this sector “experienced larger cuts in the 1990s than other sectors, smaller increases during the 2000s and is currently experiencing the largest cuts”. In 1990, further education spending per student was 45% higher than for secondary schools. By 2019-20, it is expected to be 10% lower, at the same level as in 1990.
Luke Sibieta, one of the report’s authors and an IFS associate director claims schools are about to experience cuts after significant increases over the last few decades. Meanwhile, spending in further education will remain at about the level of 1990. A Department for Education spokesman criticised the previous Labour government for cutting funding of further education most severely. The spokesman claimed that the Conservative government had since increased funding for disadvantaged pupils whilst creating new free schools.