Education & Family

Treasury takes back £384m school funding

classroom Image copyright iStock
Image caption Heads are angry that money promised for schools was taken away again when academy plans fell through

The Treasury has taken back £384m originally promised for schools in England - at a time when head teachers are protesting about a cash crisis.

The money had been announced last year to fund a plan to require all schools to become academies.

But the Department for Education has revealed that when the compulsory academy plan was ditched, the Treasury took back most of this extra funding.

Heads said this was "outrageous" when schools could not "make ends meet".

But the Department for Education said the return of funds was appropriate if a project did not go ahead.

'Extreme' funding problems

With warnings from head teachers that lack of funds could force a four-day week, there have been growing questions about the extra cash announced alongside plans to make all schools convert to academies.

Head teachers in West Sussex, who are campaigning against spending cuts, wrote last week to all their local MPs asking what had happened to the extra £500m for schools announced last year by the former Chancellor George Osborne.

A letter this week from Bristol head teachers to the education secretary, warning about "extreme" funding problems, also asked why the academy funding cash could not be used.

Education ministers had told MPs in April 2016 that there was "over £500m" for the government's academy policy.

But the compulsory academy plan was abandoned after a rebellion by backbench Conservative MPs.

And the Department for Education now says most of the extra funding earmarked for schools then disappeared back into the Treasury.

The department says that the remaining money, in excess of £100m, was spent on other education projects.

The Dedicated Schools Grant for England's schools is about £40bn a year.

Record funding levels

Education Secretary Justine Greening has faced growing pressure over gaps in school funding.

The National Audit Office has warned that current funding levels will mean £3bn in reduced spending for schools by 2020.

School leaders say that their budgets cannot stretch to the level of rising costs and have warned of having to cut teaching staff or reduce school hours.

Grammar school leaders have said that they could soon have to start asking for extra payments from parents.

But the Department for Education says that schools are receiving record levels of funding and that a new funding formula will distribute this more fairly.

The leader of the National Union of Teachers, Kevin Courtney, said the withdrawal of the announced school funding was "absolutely inexplicable" and that "every parent should be furious".

"People might say education is expensive, but ignorance is even more expensive," said Mr Courtney.

Malcolm Trobe, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, said that heads would be "extremely disappointed and angry" that the extra funding announced had not stayed in the education budget, when "schools are so hard pushed".

Jules White, a West Sussex head teacher calling for a budget increase, said his local schools faced a "dire financial situation".

"It seems extraordinary that money was there for an unnecessary policy initiative, but suddenly not available for children, families and schools that are currently not even just managing to make ends meet."

Angela Rayner, Labour's shadow education secretary, said: "It is astonishing that the Treasury is now clawing money back from the education budget at the same time as schools spending is being drastically cut."

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