School cuts campaign: 5 tests for government on school funding

11 September 2017

Ahead of Justine Greening’s expected announcement on the new funding formula for schools, education unions ASCL, NAHT, NEU, UNISON, UNITE and the GMB are setting five tests of what is required of a new fair funding settlement for schools to ensure the education of our children and young people does not continue to suffer.

Schools across the country are on their knees as a result of insufficient funding. It is resulting in cuts to the curriculum, increased class sizes and fewer teaching and school support staff. This is not an issue Government can ignore. A Survation survey found 750,000 people switched their vote as a result of the cuts during the 2017 General Election as the scale of the funding crisis was laid bare.

School funding – the five tests 

  • Reverse school cuts now: This academic year is beginning with more cuts to educational provision and more cuts to staffing in schools.  The Government’s announcement must ensure that every school is guaranteed at least the same money per pupil next year as when it took office in 2015. 

  • New money from the Treasury: Existing Government plans mean real terms cuts in funding and cuts in education provision.  The Government must announce genuinely new money for schools, not money taken from other areas of education spending. At least £2bn** more is required every year just to maintain funding in real terms in the face of inflation, cost increases and rising pupil numbers. 

  • High needs, early years and post-16 education fairly funded: Politicians will try to focus simply on schools’ core funding.  Funding must also be increased for “high needs” pupils, early years pupils and post-16 students, who have suffered even bigger cuts since 2010. 

  • A five-year funding plan: Schools need to be able to plan for the future.  With pupil numbers rising and costs increasing, they need to know how much money they will receive.  Funding must be announced and guaranteed for at least the next five years.  

  • Historic underfunding addressed: Schools in historically underfunded areas must receive extra money through a process of levelling up with better funded areas.  Fair funding won't be achieved by taking money away from some schools to give to other schools.  There must be enough new money to make a difference for every pupil, wherever they live. 

The Government needs to publish school-by-school breakdowns of school figures when they announce the detail of the new funding formula. The campaign website will be updated when the Government publishes further details of their new funding model.  

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If the government shares our ambition to continue to raise education standards it has to put its money where its mouth is and provide the funding desperately needed by schools and colleges. It simply isn’t possible to maintain existing standards, let alone take them to the next level, without appropriate resources.

Schools and colleges have already had to respond to reductions in government funding. They have had to cut courses, student support services and enrichment activities. Without improved funding there is worse to come. We are sure that parents will share our desire to see the government invest properly in the future of our young people.

Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said: “Justine Greening has serious and urgent questions to answer in the face of the huge public backlash at the government’s funding cuts. The future of our children’s education is at stake. We’re already seeing the indispensable work done by our teaching assistants and school support staff in supporting young people undermined and put at risk - with jobs put on the line. 

Without additional, sustainable funding the crisis will only get worse. The Education Secretary must now prove she is up to this test by matching her words with action to protect education.” 

Paul Whiteman, NAHT General Secretary, said: “We saw the Department for Education re-allocate funding for school budgets in July this year. This is a welcome first step but we know that new money is needed. The extra £1.3 billion over two years is significantly lower than the £2 billion extra schools need every year. 

We know that budgets are at breaking point, and we need the Chancellor to act. This is the top priority for those working in schools, and for parents across the country. Any new investment must meet these five tests if we are to see school leaders given the resources they need to deliver for all pupils.

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the new National Education Union (NEU), said: “Education cannot be run on the cheap. Children and young people need an education system that is fully funded to inspire and meet their aspirations.

If the Government learnt any lessons from the General Election it should be that parents and the general public expects our schools to be properly funded, and for this new Treasury money is vital.  Our five tests set out what a fair funding settlement should look like. Funding can only be fair if it is sufficient.

Jon Richards, UNISON head of education said:

"There's already been big cuts in support staff in secondary schools. If the government doesn't sort out funding soon, more jobs will go. But without them, schools can't run smoothly and children's safety is put at risk.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, said: “A test of the decency and effectiveness of any government must surely be how it treats our children.

"With schools pleading with parents to help provide classroom basics, skilled and essential teaching assistants losing their jobs and seven years of denying our schools sufficient funding, this government has failed this key test.

"It is in danger of being remembered as the government that denied a generation of the education and life chances they deserve, and our economy of the skills it needs to thrive.  Justine Greening must act urgently and stand up to the Treasury.  No more cuts - it is time now to invest in our children's futures.