The government’s education funding figures need context

7 July 2020
What was claimed

Boris Johnson announced an extra £14.4 billion in funding for schools over three years.

Our verdict

£14.4 billion is the cumulative amount schools in England will receive over three years. By the third year (2022/23), school funding will be £7.1 billion higher than it was in 2019/20, or £4.3 billion once inflation is accounted for.

What was claimed

That translates to £135 million a week.

Our verdict

School funding in England will be £135 million a week higher by 2022/23, not throughout the three years. After adjusting for inflation, this amounts to £82.7 million a week.

“In his first months in office, the Prime Minister announced an extra £14.4 billion in funding for schools over three years. That translates to £135 million a week”.

Department for Education, 29 June 2020

In a press release, the Department for Education (DfE) said an extra £14.4 billion in funding had been announced for schools over three years, translating to £135 million a week. The £135 million a week is the increase by the third year (2022/23) and not an immediate increase. Neither figure accounts for the change in prices (inflation) over that time. The UK Statistics Authority has told the DfE to provide “appropriate context” on statements about school funding before.

DfE has made this claim before

At the end of August 2019, the government announced more than £14 billion in funding for schools in England over three years. As we wrote at the time, this is a cumulative figure. It does not mean the budget will increase by £14 billion a year. The announcement set out that, compared to 2019/20, spending would be £2.6 billion higher in 2020/21, £4.8 billion higher the year after, and £7.1 billion higher in 2022/23. This is without taking inflation into account.

As we’ve said before, adding several years of spending together is simply not the normal way politicians talk about spending increases. They most commonly refer to spending on a per-year basis, or talking about the difference between the first and final year of spending. It’s not factually wrong to add up multiple years of spending—but it could be misleading. 

In October, commenting on the DfE’s use of the £14 billion figure, the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) said it was “vital that data and information on school funding published by the DfE are presented clearly and not open to misinterpretation”. 

The per week figure is in cash terms and not for all three years

Full Fact asked the DfE how it calculated the figure of £135 million a week. We were told this figure was for 2022/23—not all three years—and was calculated by dividing £7.1 billion by 52 (for each week in the year), which gives approximately £136.5 million. It is not clear in the press release that the reference to £135 million a week was not for all three years, and the release makes no mention of the figure of £7.1 billion. 

The other issue with this figure is that £7.1 billion does not account for inflation (the change in how much things cost over time). In 2019, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said this £7 billion increase in spending by 2022/23 is actually £4.3 billion once inflation is accounted for. Using the same calculation as the DfE, this would equate to £82.7 million a week in 2022/23.

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