25th November 2020

EPI response to Spending Review announcements on education

Following today’s Spending Review, which provided an update on public services funding for the current financial year (2020−21), as well as departmental budgets for 2021−22, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has set out its response to announcements outlined by the Chancellor on education and children and young people’s mental health.

Commenting on the government’s school funding settlement for 2021/22, set out in today’s Spending Review, Natalie Perera, Executive Director of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said: 

“While it is a positive step that the government is honouring its commitment to increase the schools budget by £2.2bn next year, it is disappointing that no additional funding is available to continue to provide catch up support for pupils who have had their education disrupted as a result of the pandemic.  

“The most disadvantaged pupils in particular, who often do not have adequate resources at home, such as laptops, and who will have lost the most learning time, will continue to need additional support at school. The adverse effects of Covid-19 on pupils’ education is likely to continue long after next year.”

On the distribution of school funding, Natalie Perera commented: 

“While we welcome the government’s commitment to increasing the schools budget by £2.2bn, we urge Ministers to take a closer look at how that funding is distributed. Our analysis shows that under the government’s current funding plans, schools serving more affluent pupils are likely to see higher increases to their funding than schools serving more disadvantaged pupils. This is despite the fact that the gap in attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their peers is already over 18 months by the end of secondary school, and is growing.”

On funding for further education, she commented: 

“It is disappointing that further education funding for 16-19 year olds does not address the falls in per-student rates in recent years. This phase of education has been most severely affected by austerity cuts, losing around 12% per pupil in real terms over the past decade. If the government is committed to delivering on its skills and “levelling up” agendas, it needs to provide the FE sector with a more sustainable funding settlement.”

Responding to plans for children’s mental health: 

“While additional funding announced by the Chancellor for mental health is welcome, it is currently unclear how much will be directed to support children’s mental health. 

“The experience of the pandemic this year is likely to have had an adverse impact on many young people. The proportion of children and young people with mental health disorders has risen from 16% in 2017 to 20% in October this year, and it is now estimated that 2 million children and young people suffer from such disorders. It is likely that we will now see further increases as the pandemic continues to unfold. 

“Given the scale of the challenge we are facing with children’s mental health and wellbeing, it’s important that the government sets out what proportion of extra funding will be allocated to young people, how it will be allocated, and whether funds will be ring-fenced.”