IFS - Severe squeeze on further education and sixth-form funding in England

18 Sep 2018 08:58 AM

Funding for 16- to 18-year-olds and for general further education has been cut much more sharply than funding for schools, pre-school or higher education.

While total school spending per pupil has fallen by 8% between 2009–10 and 2017–18, this has mainly been driven by a 55% cut to local authority spending on services and the large cuts to sixth-form funding. Funding per pupil provided to individual primary and secondary schools has been better protected and is about 4% below its recent historic high in 2015, though it remains over 60% higher than in 2000–01.

These are amongst the main findings of our inaugural annual report on education spending in England, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. These annual reports will provide the latest figures on the level of spending per student at different stages of education in England. Our first edition includes a special focus on further education and school sixth forms.  

All figures quoted are in today’s prices and all changes quoted are in real terms. The chart below shows our main estimates of spending per student across different stages of education. Our main findings for each stage of education are as follows:

Large expansion in spending on early years education

School spending cut once local authority service provision accounted for

Further education funding severely squeezed

Reforms to higher education funding have increased university resources and made little difference to the long-run cost to the public purse

Luke Sibieta, co-author of the report and Research Fellow at IFS, said: “Over the last 30 years, there have been some remarkable changes in the pattern of education spending. Spending on early education has gone from almost nothing to £3 billion since the early 1990s. Spending per student in higher education has risen by nearly 60% since 1997. Spending per school pupil rose by more than 50% over the 2000s, though it has fallen by 8% since 2010 once you include cuts to local authority spend and school sixth forms. In this context, the almost complete lack of growth in spending on further education is all the more remarkable.”

Christine Farquharson, co-author of the report and Research Economist at IFS, said: “Recent changes to funding formulas in early years, schools and the further education system introduce a more transparent way of allocating resources between institutions and around the country. However, the next big challenge across all these stages is to work out how to design systems that encourage childcare settings, schools, colleges and universities to deliver high-quality education.”

Tim Gardam, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Foundation, said: “The fall in further education spending is clear and worrying. The IFS analysis questions the capacity of the system to successfully deliver the reforms currently underway without additional funding. More fundamentally, government should look hard at these analyses of the myriad ways in which public expenditure flows into the different stages of education from the early years of life into adulthood. Neglect in investment in one educational stage has knock-on effects for others, from the point of view of the individual student and the education system as a whole.”

Report: 2018 annual report on education spending in England