School funding hasn’t increased by £5k per pupil

8 December 2020
What was claimed

School funding has increased by a minimum of £5,150 per pupil.

Our verdict

This is not true. £5,150 is the minimum amount secondary schools will receive per pupil, not the level of increase.

“We've increased school funding by a minimum of £5,150 per pupil.”

The Conservative Party has claimed on Twitter—in a tweet from its official account and a video featuring party chair Amanda Milling —that it has increased school funding “by a minimum of £5,150 per pupil”. This is incorrect.

School funding will increase to at least £5,150 per secondary school pupil under the national funding formula, but it will not increase by this amount. This is a very important distinction. 

Both the tweet and the video have been deleted since this story was published.

In July, the government confirmed the minimum per pupil funding levels that schools in England can expect to receive from 2021/22. As school funding is devolved, the UK government only sets the funding for schools in England.  

For secondary schools, this level was set at at least £5,150 per pupil, and £4,000 per pupil at primary schools.

For 2020/21, the minimum per pupil funding levels for secondary schools was set at £5,000 and £3,750 for primary schools. 

Therefore, the minimum per pupil funding threshold has increased in secondary schools by £150, and by £250 in primary schools, not £5,150. This is a big difference. 

After this story was published, the Conservative Twitter account deleted the tweet and have since clarified the amount pupils will receive in total in a new tweet. This also claims there is a £14 billion funding boost for schools. We've written about that claim before

Funding per pupil will vary by area and school

In a press release accompanying the funding announcement in July, the Department for Education (DfE) published a regional breakdown of the total per pupil funding schools are expected to receive in 2021. These figures include both secondary and primary school pupils. 

Pupils in Inner London were projected to receive the most at £6,697 per pupil—an average increase of £149 (2.3%) on 2020/21. The region with the lowest per pupil funding is the South East on £4,967, an average increase of £166 (3.5%) on 2020/21. 

The biggest yearly increase in per pupil funding was allocated to the South West and North East, with average rises of £173 and £172 per pupil respectively. 

The majority of the national funding formula is based on pupil numbers, but it also takes into account other factors such as additional needs of pupils, levels of deprivation and the school premises. 

This information is used to create a school funding allocation, and these are added up to create a total allocation for each local authority. 

Local authorities can then set their own local formula to distribute the money to the schools in their area—so although the national funding formula decides how much money is given to councils, it is the formula used by councils that determines how much individual schools receive. 

There are changes ahead

The DfE intends to move to a “hard” national funding formula, where schools will receive money directly from the government. However, currently the money is still being paid to councils, which have a degree of flexibility over how they allocate it to schools. 

The DfE said two thirds of local authorities were allocating their school funding based on the national funding formula as of 2020/21, and the minimum per pupil funding levels would remain mandatory. 

Update 10 December 2020

This story was updated after the Conservative Party deleted its tweet and video and published a new tweet on pupil spending.

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