Early education and colleges bear the brunt of the funding crunch – IFS

Early education, colleges, sixth form and universities will face a difficult few years, experts have warned after being left out of funding increases announced by the Chancellor last month.

In a “strong” new report, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that rising costs as a result of rising inflation over the past year have left colleges and senior high schools in particular in a “difficult position” following Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement.

The think tank also warns that while an extra £2.3bn for schools in England will bring spending per pupil in 2024 back to a recent peak of 2010, it will still mean that resources will be tight in the years to come .

The findings come from a new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that focuses on education spending and warns that colleges and sixth-grade institutions will likely bear the brunt of the chancellor’s spending tightness.

Announcing his budget last month, Mr Hunt called education “growth-enhancing” and said it is a “moral mission” to educate the country’s children.

However, the report highlights the intense pressure the sector is facing despite previous government funding commitments.

Both colleges and high schools saw the biggest cuts in spending per student through 2019, according to the Nuffield Foundation-sponsored report.

These are only expected to be partially reversed, while alongside rising costs, the number of 16-18 year olds is set to increase by 18% over the next decade – adding further pressure to already stretched budgets.

He warned that colleges and high schools are also in a “much worse position” than schools.

“You have seen major cuts over the past decade that are only partially being reversed. Unlike schools, they received no additional funding for higher-than-expected costs in the Fall statement and will need to host an additional 200,000 students by 2030.”

The extra £2billion won by campaigners in the autumn declaration is still not enough to restore all the cuts

Elsewhere, the report found that overall spending on education was about 2% lower in 2021 compared to 2010, while the government’s overall share of education spending has fallen from 12% in the early 1970s to 10% today.

This is despite the fact that the proportion of the UK population in full-time education has risen from 18% in the early 1980s to around 20% today.

The IFS study also shows that student enrollment is projected to fall by 700,000 between 2024 and 2030, reversing the overall increase in student enrollment since 2010.

Adult learning is also facing a bottleneck, although overall spending is set to increase by 22% between 2019 and 2024, on the back of £900m of extra funding announced in the 2021 spending review.

According to the IFS, this will reverse only a “fraction” of previous cuts, with spending 22% below 2009 levels.

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation, warned of “significant financial burdens” facing the broader sector.

“They are ultimately the ones who will lose the most from an education system that receives historically low levels of funding relative to government spending.”

dr Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, called the results “rad”.

“The extra £2billion won by campaigners in the autumn declaration is still not enough to restore all the cuts,” she said.

Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson called the government’s actions “catastrophically short-sighted”.

An Education Department spokesman said: “In recent years we have transformed the skills landscape by introducing new high-quality T-Levels, Skills Bootcamps and Institutes of Technology which have received £3.8billion backing from this Parliament.

“In the autumn statement we announced that Sir Michael Barber would be advised on the implementation of capabilities to help advance the implementation of these reforms.

“Add to that a significant increase of £750m for our world-class higher education sector.

“We are committed to improving parents’ access to affordable, flexible childcare and are currently exploring a variety of ways to do so.

“We’ve already increased funding for local authorities to increase the hourly rates they pay to childcare providers, investing more than £20billion over the last five years.

“In addition, we’re helping colleges and providers of springs with rising costs through the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, as well as £500m for energy efficiency upgrades to help keep college bills down in the future.”

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