Most schools in England facing real-terms cuts since 2010 thanks to Tories, analysis shows

<span>A taped-off section inside Parks primary school in Leicester, which was affected by substandard Raac, as seen in November 2023.</span><span>Photograph: Jacob King/PA</span>
A taped-off section inside Parks primary school in Leicester, which was affected by substandard Raac, as seen in November 2023.Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Almost three-quarters of schools in England are facing real-terms cuts since 2010 due to government funding decisions, analysis from a coalition of education unions has shown.

New data released from School Cuts suggests before the spring budget next month that £12.2bn of investment is needed to reverse the cuts 70% of English state-funded schools have faced in the last 14 years under the Conservatives.

That would include funding to repair crumbling school buildings and tackle the crisis in special educational needs funding, the unions said.

The analysis also showed that real-terms cuts had affected 66% of maintained primary schools and 88% of secondary schools.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said the effects of 14 years of austerity were plain to see. “We have the largest class sizes in Europe,” he said. “In September, children in more than 100 schools couldn’t start school on time because ceilings were falling in and posing a risk to their lives.

“This year, yet again, the government has failed to hit its teacher training recruitment targets for almost all secondary subjects. This neglect of education services has failed an entire generation of children; the government must not fail another. We need to see substantial investment in the upcoming spring budget.”

School Cuts is run by the National Education Union, the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers, and supported by Parentkind and the National Governance Association.

Sam Henson, deputy chief executive of the National Governance Association, urged the government to bring substantial investment to protect high-quality education and meet the needs of vulnerable pupils. He said: “Our members governing in all settings, from MATs [multi-academy trusts] to maintained schools, are telling us that balancing the budget is their biggest governance challenge. The growing difficulty in keeping their schools and trusts financially sustainable, and the impossible choices often required to do so, is causing volunteers huge stress and worry.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The School Cuts website lays bare the impact of the government’s underfunding of schools.

“The reality is that there are school and college leaders across the country, working from buildings that are no longer fit for purpose and being forced to calculate what extra cuts they are going to have to make in order to balance their budgets. The government must make education a priority at the spring budget, giving schools and colleges the investment they urgently need while addressing the worsening condition of buildings and the growing crisis in special educational needs funding.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “The prime minister pledged to make education his main funding priority in every spending review at the last Conservative party conference, but there was no sign of this happening in the subsequent autumn statement. Many schools are struggling to finance the basics, let alone to deal with crumbling buildings and support the growing numbers of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

“It is imperative that this spring budget brings an end to more than a decade of underinvestment in schools and real-terms funding cuts. We need to see a sustained commitment from the government to ensure all schools are equipped with the resources they need to offer all pupils a fulfilling and safe education.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our well-established methodology, confirmed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, shows that overall school funding is rising to more than £59.6bn next year – the highest ever level in real terms per pupil.

“The NEU’s analysis fails to take into account the significant investment into the high needs budget, which will have risen to £10.5bn next year – an increase of over 60% since 2019/20.”