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On 26 February 2019 there will be an Estimates Day debate on the spending of the Department for Education.

The subject for this debate was selected by the Backbench Business Committee, following the publication of the 2018-19 Supplementary Estimates on 11 February 2019. The application to the Committee was made by Robert Halfon (Conservative), chair of the Education Select Committee, Meg Hillier (Labour), chair of the Committee of Public Accounts and Layla Moran, member of the Committee of Public Accounts and Liberal Democrat spokesperson on education.

This debate comes at a time when the Government has recently introduced a new funding formula for schools, and follows an earlier Estimates day debate on Education last year.

The Department for Education is one of the big four spending departments, along with health, defence and work & pensions. DFE’s spending is dominated by grants to schools, making up around £50 billion of DFE’s planned revised 2018-19 Resource Departmental Limit of £77 billion. In addition, nearly £18 billion is accounted for by higher education, including £11 billion of estimated further write downs in the value of the student loan book.

DFE’s planned revised 2018-19 capital budget includes £3.4 billion in capital grants to schools.

An estimated £23.4 billion in student loans are expected to be paid out this year, with capital repayments amounting to only £1.1 billion.

The Government has introduced a new national funding formula for schools from April 2018.  For the present at least, while amounts are determined based on factors relevant to each school, funding is distributed to local authorities who decide how to allocate funding to schools in their areas according to local formulae.

Funding for schools has been relatively protected, by Government pledges, from spending reductions in recent years in various ways. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that under the Coalition Government, schools funding was largely constant in real terms per pupil but from 2015-16 to 2017-18, fell in real terms by just over 4% per pupil. The IFS also note that school funding per pupil is now expected to be frozen in real terms between 2017–18 and 2019–20.

Where school rolls increase, schools attract additional per pupil funding. Government policies have channelled targeted funding to schools with pupils with particular needs through a “pupil premium”.  Despite these measures, and while schools funding has been relatively protected, schools have faced additional cost pressures from pay, additional employers’ national insurance payments and other sources.


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