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More than two-thirds of the extra costs facing schools as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will not be covered by the UK government’s support fund, according to a leading education thinktank.
Most schools have had to spend more cash this year in order to operate a “Covid-safe” environment. The government has provided some financial relief through its exceptional costs fund, but research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) suggests that the majority of schools’ additional costs won’t be met by the fund.
The analysis, based on a survey of more than 700 schools in November, suggests that nearly three in five (57%) are using their reserves to cover these extra costs and around half of schools do not expect to have a balanced budget by the end of the year.
The EPI estimates that of the combined total of all schools’ Covid-related costs in England, less than a third (31%) will be reimbursed by the government’s exceptional costs fund.
The analysis found that nearly all schools reported extra spending on PPE and cleaning supplies, while the vast majority faced increased costs in signage, digital equipment and hand-washing facilities.
It also found that since the first national lockdown in March, primary schools have had to meet additional non-staff costs that averaged just under £13,000, special schools just under £18,000 and secondary schools nearly £43,000.
The pressure of this additional expenditure, the report suggests, will be “felt most in schools with high levels of disadvantage” and schools may be facing a shortfall in terms of funding for catch-up.
In June, Boris Johnson announced a £1bn plan to help pupils in England make up lost learning time following months of school closures. Butthe data suggests only 31% of schools are planning to pay for subsidised tuition through the National Tutoring Programme this academic year.
Last month, the Department for Education (DfE) unveiled a short-term Covid workforce fund to help schools and colleges cover the costs of staff absence due to the pandemic. The fund, which will be backdated to 1 November and cover the last half-term, will only be available to schools and colleges facing high levels of staff absences, or significant budget pressures.
Bobbie Mills, report author and senior researcher at EPI, said it was essential for schools to have a stable financial footing and sufficient resources to support their pupils, following the significant disruption to their education.
She said: “Despite recent increases in school funding, budgets are likely to be under increased pressure as a result of the extra costs incurred this year, with schools serving disadvantaged areas facing some of the biggest challenges.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said school budgets, which were already “very tight because of years of government underfunding”, were now in an even worse position. “It will inevitably mean schools will need to make more cuts and this will impact on the academic and pastoral support they are able to provide to pupils in the wake of the pandemic,” he said. “The small amount of financial support which the government has made available for extra costs during the emergency has been piecemeal, extremely limited in scope and inadequate.”
Labour has called on the government to review the funding available to cover schools’ additional Covid-19 related costs. Kate Green, the shadow education secretary, warned schools were being forced to make cuts in areas such as support for pupils to catch-up on lost learning to fund safety measures during the pandemic, which risks “entrenching disadvantage and the damage that has been done to children’s learning this year”.
A DfE spokeswoman said: “Schools have continued to receive their core funding throughout the pandemic, with this year marking the first year of our investment of £14.bn in total over the three years to 2022-23 – the largest increase in a decade. We continue to keep additional funding required under review.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK schools ‘will have less than a third of Covid costs met by government’ | Coronavirus