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Boris Johnson stands accused of breaking his promise to “level up” education funding as a new analysis shows schools with rich pupils are set to benefit more from new cash.
Think tank the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has probed the Tory government’s new settlement for schools, which the prime minister said would be a cash injection for deprived parts of the country.
Confirming settlement for schools that will see an annual spending rise of £7.1bn over three years, Johnson said pupils in England will receive an increase in funding of at least 2% next year.
It means secondary schools will attract a minimum of £5,150 per pupil – up from £5,000 this year – while primary schools will get at least £4,000 per pupil, up from £3,750.
But the EPI founds that more funding is being directed towards schools previously funded at a lower rate – and often these have fewer disadvantaged pupils.
It found on average that poorer pupils - those eligible for free school meals (FSM) - will see a real terms funding increase of 0.6% compared to last year, while non-FSM students will receive a larger increase of 1.1%.
The report also said that white British pupils will see real terms funding increases of 1.4%, compared to 0.5% for non-white British pupils.
There are also fears that deprived areas could be further hit as the Covid-19 crisis will push up school costs.
It concludes: “The link between funding and pupil need is being weakened by a system of levelling up which directs a proportion of additional funding towards schools with historically lower levels of funding – these schools will typically (though by no means exclusively) be serving schools in more affluent areas.”
David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, added: “School closures this year will have been especially harmful for the learning outcomes of the poorest pupils. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds will need maximum support to ensure their life chances are not damaged by this period of disruption.
“But by skewing extra funding towards more affluent pupils, the government’s approach of ‘levelling up’ school funding is fundamentally at odds with this goal.”
The Scottish Qualifications Authority is under fire over its model, which reduced the pass rate of the poorest Higher pupils by more than twice that of the richest.
Commenting on the EPI report, Julia Harnden, funding specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), meanwhile, said: “The problem is that many schools in deprived areas where funding rates are higher to support disadvantaged pupils, are getting lower uplifts, because the government isn’t putting enough money into the system to increase their funding to the same extent.
“In fact, we are concerned that some of these schools may be worse off in real terms because school costs are rising above inflation.”
Avis Gilmore, deputy general secretary of the National Education Union, said the “reverse is happening” to “levelling up” and the new formula risks exacerbating the attainment gap, adding: “The cuts schools and colleges have suffered to their budgets since 2015 have impacted greatly on children and young peoples education.
“While we welcome the extra money being given to schools and colleges it is still not enough to address the current shortfall in funding. Focusing the additional funding available away from those students with the greatest need will result in many children not getting the education they deserve.”