At this year’s Liberal Democrat Spring Conference, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has partnered with the National Education Union (NEU) to hold an open fringe panel discussion: ‘Investing in the future: education at the heart of future funding plans’
IFS analysis shows that school spending per pupil has fallen by 9% in real terms in the decade leading up to 2020 and cuts to 16-19 education funding have been even greater – twice the rate of those in other school phases. While recent investment means that per pupil school funding will return to 2009-2010 levels in the 2024-25 academic year, the current National Funding Formula (NFF) is set up in such a way that the effects of funding rises have not been felt equally across schools. Additional funding has been disproportionately targeted towards schools that had historically lower levels of funding and these schools have tended to have less-disadvantaged intakes.
Research has found that money does matter; a 2010 paper shows that “school expenditure has a consistently positive and significant effect on all national tests taken at the end of primary school” while 2018 research illustrates that a “£1,000 increase in per pupil expenditure per year raises test scores at the end of primary school by around 0.30 standard deviations.” Both papers also find greater effects for schools that have higher proportions of disadvantaged students.
The Liberal Democrats have recognised both the case and need for investment, pledging to, among others, increase school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation every year; reverse cuts to the Pupil Premium and free school meals; and introduce a Young People’s Premium for those aged 16-18.
The question remains however, will this be enough? What else is needed to reverse the underfunding of schools and ensure we invest in every child’s potential? This panel will bring together politicians, school leaders and other education stakeholders to discuss the benefits and opportunities meaningful investment in education can offer. Panellists will discuss what ‘meaningful investment’ truly looks like; how to ensure that funding increases are distributed fairly and reach those most in need and finally, beyond attainment, what investment might mean for the wellbeing and futures of education staff, children and wider communities.
We are delighted to welcome Niamh Sweeney, NEU Deputy General Secretary and Rob Herd, Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Chester South and Eddisbury. More speakers to be confirmed. Natalie Perera, EPI’s Chief Executive, will chair the session.