No school funding crisis, says National Schools Commissioner

England’s school system is not even on the verge of a funding crisis, the National Schools Commissioner has insisted.

Dominic Herrington’s comments, in his first major interview since becoming interim national schools commissioner in September, come despite warnings from teachers, MPs, ex-ministers and funding experts of growing funding problems in schools.

Speaking to the Tes Mr Herrington said: “I don’t agree [the school system] is on the verge of a crisis but I am acutely conscious of the pressures that schools and academy trusts face, both professionally and personally, and I think our job is to make sure we help those trusts as best we can.” He also dismissed warnings that cuts were harming the quality of education.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that per pupil spending declined by 8%, or £506 per pupil, since 2009/10 as real terms schools funding stagnated and pupil numbers increased. Schools North East has determined that additional investment of £4.3 billion would be required to return per pupil spending to 2009/10 levels.

Last week a YouGov survey found 71 per cent of teachers are in schools with falling budgets and 55 per cent said class sizes had increased in their schools.

This week the Education Select Committee also heard warnings that the SEND system could “implode” because of a lack of funding. School finance expert Julie Cordiner this week warned of the urgency of the problem in High Needs in a webinar for Schools North East. She has calculated that costs associated with High Needs have increased by 27% from 2013/14 to 2018/19, against a backdrop of minimal increases in funding and growth of 10.9% in the number of plans over the same period.[1]

[1] Julie Cordiner, School Financial Success, High Needs Funding in Crisis (2018)

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