Belt tightening in evidence

Life is beginning to return to normal after the summer break. The final figures on teacher training offers will appear later this week. However, last week the government published the last data of education spending under the coalition with the figures from the Section 251 budgets for planned expenditure by schools and local authorities’ services for this financial year.

With the split between academies and maintained schools comparing between authorities on schoolings remains a bit of a challenge. In other children’s services it is still relatively clear what is spent by local authorities on say, youth justice or fostering. However, now that the majority of academies are what is known as ‘recoupment academies’ this means some comparison between per capita spending across the country is once again possible.

Overall spend per capita on the individual school budget at local authority levels has seen an increase in expected expenditure from £4,361 to £4,408 per capita, up by £47 or a little over one per cent. This may well help to explain why schools feel that their budgets have effectively been cut, since increased government take back through pension contributions and increased National Insurance contributions have been greater than the increase in income. To some extent this has also reduced the recruitment crisis in some places by diverting funds away from employing staff.

The local authority per capita expected spend doesn’t distinguish between spending in the primary and secondary sectors in the government’s aggregate figures, so it is impossible to tell whether the authorities where spending per capita is expected to be lower in 2015-16 than in 2014-15 is across the board or in only one of the sectors. What is interesting, however, is that five of the bottom ten ranked authorities, or five of nine if Middlesbrough is excluded on the basis that the figures don’t look credible, have selective secondary schools across the authority. Additionally, three of these authorities appear to have a lower per capita spend in 2015—16 than in the previous year. Now, as academies have a different financial year to maintained schools, that may account for some of the difference, but it isn’t clear whether or not that is the case form the data as presented.

Another interesting feature is that per capita spend in Inner London has also declined from £5,842 to £5,759 per capita in 2015-16. The drop isn’t across the board, but is greatest in Camden and Kensington and Chelsea. Tower Hamlets still tops the list with a spend of £6,842 per capita, down by some nine pounds per capita, but still some £350 ahead of Hackney, the next highest. (These figures exclude the single school in the City of London and on the Isles of Scilly where figures are much higher. However, it isn’t clear why the primary school in the City of London should receive £600 per pupil more than the average for schools in Tower Hamlets.)

Indications are that with increasing pupil numbers and the government’s commitment to austerity the 2016-17 budgets now being assembled at the macro level aren’t likely to be any more generous than this year, and might put schools under even more pressure at the per capita level. That will make free services like our TeachVac www.teachvac.co.uk more valuable to schools than spending money on services that often increase in price every year regardless of inflation levels and technological changes.

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