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2 February 2022

How the poorest school pupils have lost the most funding

The most disadvantaged primary schools lost money while those in prosperous areas gained it.

By Polly Bindman

The government’s long-awaited “levelling up” plans, which aim to narrow the gap between richer and poorer parts of the country, have been revealed today.

The plans, which Labour has criticised as a re-packaging of old ideas, include a promise to eliminate illiteracy and innumeracy through measures targeting the education sector, where schools with poorer pupils have suffered the largest decreases in funding over the past decade.

According to analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), between 2009–10 and 2019–20, spending per pupil fell more among schools in the most disadvantaged areas than the least. In primary schools, spending per pupil rose by 7 per cent in real terms for the least deprived schools, but fell by 1 per cent for the most deprived. 

In secondary schools, the funding decrease was five percentage points greater for students in the most disadvantaged schools than the least. 

In monetary terms, those in the most advantaged secondary schools saw their spending per pupil fall from £6,249 to £5,680 between 2010 and 2020, whereas at schools with the poorest pupils it was cut from £8,169 to £6,996, widening the inequality gap.

Before the publication of the levelling up white paper Paul Johnson, director of the IFS, said that in order for people born in poorer areas to see the full benefits of levelling up, economic outcomes and a more even geographic spread of higher paid jobs, “educational attainment in these areas must simultaneously be improved, or else many of the good jobs will be filled by graduates moving in".

“Decisions since 2010 to cut public spending in poorer areas more than in better off ones will not have helped,” he said. 

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The government’s levelling up measures target 55 areas with persistently poor educational results, 95 per cent of which are outside of London and the south-east. The measures include retention payments for teachers as an incentive to remain in local schools.

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