A Conservative MP wrote to Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of ‘wrongly claiming’ about cuts in her area. But there was only one untruth teller in this situation. And it wasn’t the Labour leader…
On Thursday 20 July Corbyn visited Newdale Primary School in Telford. And afterwards, he tweeted that the school was facing “cutbacks” under the Conservative government:
But Telford MP, Tory Lucy Allan, hit back on Twitter, and in a letter to Corbyn:
Telford was 2nd highest beneficiary of school funding formula gained 2.2%. All our schools got more cash except 2. https://www.lucyallan.com/news/school-funding-formula …
School funding formula
Telford schools likely to gain under changes to the national funding formula for schools
So, the question remains: who was telling the truth?
Allan pointed to government figures on the new National Funding Formula (NFF) for England. It says [spreadsheet row 137] that the total NFF cash for Telford schools will be £106.2m in the first year of the NFF (2018). This is a cash increase of 2.2% on the baseline budget [spreadsheet row 137 column A] for 2016/17. 59 schools will get an increase in funding, while six will get the same or less money.
This figure was worked out before Education Secretary Justine Greening announcedan “additional” £1.3bn between 2018 and 2020. It will be split, giving an extra £416m in 2018/19 and £884m in 2019/20.
The actual breakdown of how much each local authority will receive will not be known until September. But, based on total English schools funding for 2016/17 being around £32.11bn [spreadsheet sum of column B], Telford’s percentage of this was [spreadsheet row 137 column B] 0.32%. So, it would theoretically get an extra £1.33m in 2018/19, and £2.82m in 2019/20; increases of 1.27% and 2.71% respectively on 2016/17.
And coupled with the NFF increase would give Telford schools an extra 3.47% in 2018/19, on 2016/17 levels.
Corbyn said, without any detail, that Newdale primary school was facing “further cutbacks”. And the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) agrees. It says that even with the NFF, schools in England are facing real terms (that is, money adjusted for inflation) reductions of 6.5% to per pupil spending between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
The IFS noted that:
This would be the largest cut in school spending per pupil over a four-year period since at least the early 1980s and would return school spending per pupil to about the same real-terms level as it was in 2010–11.
The National Audit Office said the same as the IFS in a report in December 2016. It noted that “mainstream schools, overall, would need to find £3bn of efficiency savings by 2019-20. This equated to a net real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding of around 8% for mainstream schools between 2014-15 and 2019-20”.
The website schoolcuts.org calculates the impact of the NFF and forecast efficiency savings on school budgets. It uses IFS analysis and Department for Education and Treasury figures. And it claims that Newdale primary’s budget will be down £91,442 by 2021; a loss of £224 per pupil.
But what effect does the “additional” £1.3bn have on Corbyn’s claim of “cutbacks”? The IFS has said that, even with this extra money, schools will still see a 4.6% real terms per pupil cut in money between 2015 and 2019.
So? Who’s right?
In theory, both Allan and Corbyn are correct. The former is right that the government is increasing cash for schools. But the latter is also right when he says they’ll still see “cutbacks”. Because in real terms, school’s will.
It is, however, real terms funding that matters. Because if you don’t count the cost of inflation on everything from electric, gas and water, to books, maintenance and gardening, then throwing extra cash at schools is meaningless. Also, extra cash doesn’t account for rising teacher costs. Furthermore, Allan’s claims don’t acknowledge the fact that the number of pupils in our schools is set to rise; by around 10% by 2025. So, we got ‘straight-talking, honest politics’ from Corbyn. And a lot of smoke and mirrors from a Tory.