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The only way is UP?

In December I wrote to let you know about the work I was undertaking to obtain representative data on how school budgets and spending will likely be realised in 2020 and continue through to the end of the current Spending Round in 2022/23.


That process has now been completed with responses from 1,100 schools (500 before the general election but after the Spending Round announcement) and 600 in January. I attach a report outlining what is known about funding and what is likely to happen to spend given the insights I have obtained from head teachers and school business professionals over the last month or so.

So, what impact will £14.5 billion have on resource spending over the next three years? Unfortunately, in the first year, the identified £2.6 billion additional allocation for schools (5-16 years) will have no significant impact. We will likely see no more than a 1% increase in resource spending. In part this is due to funding increases in teacher salaries, and for many, starting the process of repairing budget deficits.

The picture begins to improve as we move into 2021/22, where an additional £4.8 billion will be allocated to schools. The impact is likely to be a +4% improvement in resource budget allocations.

As we progress into 2022/23, spending is forecast to grow a little more to +5%, as the final lump of funding from this Spending Round of £7.1 billion is allocated.

There is evidence that resource spending would have reverted to a negative trajectory without the additional funding. There is clearly no slack in the current system, with many schools forced to run into deficit over the last few years. Also note that 2018/19 has actually turned out to be a better than average year for resource expenditure (mostly due to the additional £400m one-year capital allocation). Therefore, even if anticipated growth in resource expenditure is not as high as some may have hoped, any movement is based on a better foundation than expected – we’ve avoided a probable dip in spending.

Of course, spending will not be evenly spread over each category of spending. The latest annual BESA survey on resourcing and priorities provides insight. Here I ask over 900 school leaders and school business managers their projections for spending in 2020/21 by product category. The annual BESA ‘Resources in English Schools’ review has been distributed to BESA members and is available from their website.

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