School Funding in England Since 2010 – What the Key Evidence Tells Us
16 January 2018
A new report, School funding in England since 2010 – what the key evidence tells us, has been published today by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER). It summarises the changes to school funding that have taken place during the last seven years and looks at existing evidence on the impact that these changes have had on patterns of expenditure in schools and their effects, particularly in relation to disadvantaged pupils.
Ahead of the introduction of the Government’s National Funding Formula (NFF) for schools from April 2018, the NFER report also discusses the potential impact of the NFF on schools in England in its implementation phase up to 2019/20. This also follows the announcement in July 2017 of an additional £1.3 billion in core school funding over the next two years.
The analysis has been published to coincide with a presentation by our Head of International Education, Ben Durbin, at the Westminster Education Forum on the Next Steps for School Funding Conference. Ben places school funding in England within a broader international context, using international comparison data to explore how the current level of school funding, and its evolution over time, compares to other education systems. He also presents evidence of how this translates into the day-to-day experiences of school leaders and teachers, highlighting the importance not only of total budgets, but also how resources can be used to best effect.
In the new report, researchers carried out a review of literature, empirical research and evaluation, and policy documents published since 2010 that outline how past, current and future school funding has been and will be allocated. Only those items directly relevant to the scope of the study and that could be verified as having been based on robust research methodology were studied further.
Key findings from the study of 14 items that emerged from the literature search included:
- the observed benefits of higher spending are typically greater for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds
- there are encouraging signs that the pupil premium is being put to good use, but funding cuts may undermine its future success
- the new NFF could significantly reduce differences in funding between schools with very similar characteristics, if fully implemented
- pupils living in the least deprived areas will experience the highest relative gains in overall funding as a direct result of the NFF. This does not mean that all schools in disadvantaged areas will lose funding as a result of full implementation of the NFF. However, overall, we would expect to see a shift in funding away from the most disadvantaged pupils and schools to the so called ‘just about managing group’
- It is not just the amount of funding that can impact on attainment; what funds are actually spent on is equally, if not more, important.
It also outlines aspects of school funding where further research could be useful for future policy.
Chief Executive Carole Willis said, “This rapid review of the evidence has highlighted how few robust studies have looked at the direct impact of specific government funding policies on outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.
“Social mobility is a key focus of NFER’s research. We need to look beyond correlations to understand how schools are spending their resources in more detail, and what impact this has on outcomes for different groups of pupils. This will provide more evidence and insights into where spending generates the greatest value for money.”