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Education Update

Spending review and schools - what's it to you?


- Introduction

The government announced its funding review recently and a number of people have been poring over the figures to try to assess what this means in terms of its impact upon schools. This update is meant to be an initial response to the review. More details will become available between now and Christmas and the government white paper on schools will also have a bearing when it is published later in the autumn.

- The Review

The coalition government states that the school budget will actually increase spending on schools in real terms each year of the spending review period – but with economies of scale there will be a reduction of 3% in the overall budget by 2014.

A number of major savings have already been announced including the halting of the Building Schools for the Future programme, the ending of the educational maintenance allowance and a public sector pay freeze. These along with savings within the department itself have meant that the overall impact of the spending review on schools has been relatively mild. Not so for universities.

The major issues arising from the review relate to the pupil premium and the new schools baseline budget.

- Pupil Premium

The pupil premium follows the recent disadvantaged subsidy grant as a means of giving money directly to the poorest students to ensure that they have access to wider opportunities that will develop them as people. Schools will be given £2400 per student who qualifies for free school meals.

In reality the Institute for Fiscal Studies say that this means that schools in more disadvantaged areas will see a significant increase in their budgets, but those in better off areas with fewer students qualifying will actually have their budget reduced – as the money being used to pay for the premium is not, as originally promised, additional funds, rather it is reallocated.

What this means in practice is that there will be schools looking for services to support their disadvantaged students and able to pay for them. There will be schools no longer able to afford some of their activities because of reductions in available funds.

- Schools baseline budget

In the past schools were given ring fenced funding streams to be used on the areas designated by central government. This is changing. Many of these streams are being merged into one big pot that will be part of the overall budget for the school. The merging streams are:

- One to one tuition
- Every child a reader (etc) programmes
- Extended schools
- School lunch grant
- School standards grant ( used for trips, pupil enrichment and study support)
- Schools development grant
- Specialist schools funding
- National strategy budgets
- Academies running costs

What this means is that the decisions on how to spend this money will be taken locally rather than dictated centrally. The government mantra is greater freedom for schools, greater flexibility for teachers and this move is supposed to back this ideology.

- Impact on YFC

The impact on YFC is difficult to calculate. Much of what will happen will be dependent on local factors – the numbers of free school meal pupils, the quality of provision locally, the costs of after school provision etc. What is clear from my brief chats with a number of heads is that if an organization has proved themselves to be of value to a school in terms of its outcomes and impacts then it is highly likely that a relationship will continue. One head I know will continue to promote extended schools because it makes a difference to his community. Relationships will be key.

YFC will need to make itself invaluable. We will need to be able to demonstrate how our activities can impact schools and students in all kinds of ways. We will need to be flexible in our approaches to schoolswork and we will have to consider the question – how much quality work are we able to provide for little or no cost?

My personal feeling is that when everything settles, the service we have to offer to schools will be more important than ever and that we can become a much sought after resource in the future.