Action Tutoring is a charity that exists to close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils. Schools currently pay for approximately one-third of the cost of our tutoring programmes, with the remainder coming from fundraising through grants and donations.
Most schools use their Pupil Premium allocation to pay for our tutoring programmes. Pupil Premium funding is given to schools to be used to help raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils: schools receive £935 for each eligible secondary school pupil and £1,320 for each eligible primary school pupil, with additional funding available for Looked After Children and children whose parents are in the regular armed forces.
However, with general school funding being stretched, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for schools to direct their Pupil Premium grant to the pupils who need it most.
You would be forgiven for having missed the Spring Statement a few weeks ago, with Brexit centre stage it has, in some ways, slipped under the radar. However these spending events are always a focus for anyone receiving government funding, including the schools we partner with to deliver our tutoring programmes.
It is no secret that schools are suffering due to recent funding cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that spending per pupil in schools in England fell by 8% from 2009-10 to 2017-18. Many schools we speak to are struggling to afford the core teaching staff they need, let alone being able to invest in closing the attainment gap. In the 2018 Autumn Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond came under fire for referring to a £400m allocation to schools as a bonus to “buy the little extras they need”.
A number of schools have been in the news recently for resorting to drastic measures to enable them to cover their core costs. Some schools are now closing on Friday afternoons because they can’t afford to pay staff to keep the school open. Another school recently reported that teaching staff are volunteering to take a £7,000 pay cut to retain other staff. A group of school governors recently had a letter published in the Guardian stating, “We are eliminating vital aspects of a rounded education to protect the teaching budget, cutting mentoring for vulnerable young people because we can’t pay staff for extra duties outside the classroom”. There were no shortage of pleas, protests and requests directed at the Government in advance of the recent Spring Statement, however unfortunately there were no new school funding proposals announced.
For some schools the cuts in funding have been exacerbated by the introduction of the national funding formula which has implemented a single funding formula for all schools in England, replacing local formulae for individual local authorities. Whilst the aim of the formula is for a fairer allocation which targets need, any redistribution will be challenging for those who lose out on what they had previously. The new funding formula is being gradually introduced and will be fully implemented by 2021.
The next major spending event for the Government is expected to be the 2019 Spending Review, which will announce new spending plans for public services and should give schools some more certainty over their funding for the next five years. The spending review is expected to be launched before MPs’ summer recess, however specific timing is uncertain and may be dependent on the Brexit process.