How big was the St. Matthew’s budget cut?
St. Matthew’s budget for 2019/20 was £62,786 lower than for 2018/19, in cash terms. In real terms (allowing for increased costs due to inflation, mandatory pay rises, etc), that is equivalent to a cut of around £102,000.1Calculated using the estimated 1.8% costs increase for 2018/19 to 2019/20 in the National Audit Office report ‘Financial Sustainability of Schools’ (Dec 2016)
What factors contribute to the budget cut?
1. Pupil numbers on census day
The largest component of the cut (around £56,000) is due to a cruel quirk of the National Funding Formula that local authorities now use to allocate school funding. Funds are allocated to schools based on the number of pupils enrolled on 5th October in the previous year. This is not a reliable indicator of how many pupils attend over the rest of the year. In Cambridge there is a high turnover of children over the summer, and new admissions are often not processed by 5th October. It happens that there were 16 fewer pupils enrolled on 5th October 2018 than there were on that date in 2017, even though by January those places were all filled. Since funding is based on the October census, St. Matthew’s effectively lost out on funding for 16 of its pupils, amounting to around £56,000.2Calculation: 16 (the number fewer pupils enrolled on census day 2018 compared to 2017) multiplied by £3506) (the 2019/20 per-pupil budget).
2. Lower funding per pupil
The remainder of the cut is due to a lower funding rate per pupil compared to the previous year. Per-pupil funding for St. Matthew’s has dropped to £3,506, just scraping above the minimum allowed level of funding per pupil.
In theory, St. Matthew’s should be one of the schools to get a large increase in its per-pupil funding due to the introduction of the National Funding Formula, yet it ended up with a cut instead. This is because the Formula obliges Cambridgeshire to spend funds on new schools/classes, doesn’t allow the funding of historically well-funded schools to drop by more than 1.9% each year, and imposes a minimum funding level per pupil. Yet the funding supplied by the government doesn’t fully cover these considerations. In order to satisfy these requirements, there is no other option than to take budget away from other schools, including St. Matthew’s. As a result the theoretical increase has turned into a cut.
Additionally, the government has extended the responsibility of local authorities for the support of education of children with special needs and disabilities to include people aged 18 to 25. This has not been followed through with sufficient additional funding. As a result, Cambridgeshire’s High Needs Block is overspent by £8 million this year. 0.5% of the Schools Block Funding was transferred to the High Needs Block to support this. This alone cost St Matthew’s something in the region of £12,000.
What about previous years?
Over the four years from 2015/16 to 2017/18, according to School Cuts’ calculations, St. Matthew’s lost out on £448,252 over the four years from 2015/16 to 2018/19 (in 2018/19 prices), compared to what it needed to maintain its budget in real terms.
Going back further, the IFS has calculated that, nationally, school spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18.52018 annual report on education spending in England (Institute for Fiscal Studies)
How come the government claims that schools funding is increasing?
[This answer was written before the September 2019 school funding increase announcements. We will update it once we have analysed the new promises.]
They are being highly selective in their statements. Here is a brief rebuttal of some of their claims.
Claim: “More money than ever is being put into England’s schools”
This is true in cash terms but does not account for rising costs due to inflation and staff pay-rises (which are fixed by the government). In real terms, at best it is a freeze. See School funding: Is the government spending record amounts (BBC), Government funding figures – fact or fiction? (Education Executive).
Furthermore, the funding is not evenly distributed, so some schools (like St. Matthew’s) are facing cuts even in cash terms.
Claim: “Since 2017, the national funding formula has allocated every local authority more money for every pupil in every school”6Government response to Increase Funding for Schools e-petition.
Claim: “Schools in Cambridgeshire will receive an increase of 3.5% per pupil in the next academic year (2019/2020), compared to last year (2017/2018)”7Dept for Education statement to BBC/ITN news in response to our Cambridge schools funding march in April 2019.
In St. Matthew’s headmaster Tony Davies’ words:
“The 3.5% figure quoted by the government is an average increase that all Cambridgeshire schools would receive if the government had put in enough funds to fully implement the National Funding Formula for all schools – but they haven’t done so.
“Cambridgeshire would need around an additional £5.3 million to do this. This is because funding for schools has to be used to help pay for the growth of new schools and to help pay for the support for children with special educational needs and disabilities. That budget is £8 million pounds in deficit [in the 2018-19 financial year], and schools are putting in £1.7 million of their funding in 2019/20 to help meet those costs.
“The money Cambridgeshire council receives from the government has to be spread unevenly between schools, in order to top up funding for schools which would otherwise see their funding fall by more than the government allows or, even worse, drop under the minimum funding level that every school must receive per pupil. The government does not fund those shortfalls, so it comes out of our school budgets, before we have even seen the money. That is why the actual money we receive per pupil has gone down, not up.
“Even if it were true that every school was going to see an increase in its funding in September, that would ignore the failure of the government to match inflation and other costs, year-on-year, since 2010. To pick out one year misrepresents the situation we are facing.”
What can I do?
If you believe all schools should be properly funded, join the protest group.You could also write to your MP (Daniel Zeicher, for Cambridge), perhaps asking him or her to raise the issue with schools minister Nick Gibb.
- You can join the many parents and relatives helping to plug the 2019 shortfall at St Matthew’s by donating here.
If you have any queries about this page, or the fundraising campaign, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org