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New levy could push school budgets beyond breaking point

The Local Government Association (LGA) today calls for small council-maintained schools to be exempt from paying the new apprenticeship levy, as small academy and faith schools are. Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, responds:

“School budgets are already being pushed beyond breaking point. Figures released by the National Audit Office last year show that school funding is being cut by £3 billion in real terms – destroying the government’s claims that school budgets are protected.

“The biggest cost to schools is staffing, and increases to national insurance contributions, employer pension contributions, cost of living increments and the ESG cut all combined last year to hit schools very hard. The new apprenticeship levy is yet another example of a government policy negatively impacting school budgets and potentially standards.

“When the National Funding Formula was announced the government promised that no school would lose more than 1.5 per cent of its budget, as this would be so drastic a reduction. But the apprenticeship levy will mean that council-maintained schools of any size will lose a further 0.5 per cent of their staff budget – and this on top of the 8 per cent real terms cut in funding schools are already faced with.

“NAHT support the call for small council-maintained schools with a wage bill of less than £3 million to be exempt from paying the apprenticeship levy, as small academies and free schools will be. It is not fair for some pupils to suffer, purely because of the structure of their school and the way it receives its funding.

“We further call for the government to recognise new training and apprenticeship schemes that schools can access, using the dedicated apprenticeship funding gathered by the levy. Currently small schools are faced with paying into a fund they may not be able to benefit from.”