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Fix School Funding

The issue

  • There has been 15 years with no overall growth in  school spending. This squeeze on school resources is effectively without precedent in post-war UK history.
  • Schools are now facing new and significant cost pressures e.g. surging energy prices, covid-related costs, falling primary pupil numbers, the National Insurance increase, and pressures due to significant underfunding of SEND.
  • Changes to the government’s national funding formula (NFF) have seen a redistribution of funding away from schools serving the most deprived communities in recent years.
  • Funding for pupils with special educational needs (SEND) is in crisis, with overall High Needs budget deficits estimated to be more than £2billion and growing
  • The value of pupil premium funding designed to support the most disadvantaged pupils has fallen in real-terms since 2015.
  • The government has only invested a small fraction of the covid recovery funding that its own recovery commissioner said would be required.
  • Between 2009-10 and 2021-22, capital spending declined by 25% in cash terms, and 29% when adjusted for inflation.
  • Specific types of schools including small schools and maintained nursery schools remain under extreme financial pressure and many of facing the real risk of closure.


What we want to see

  • The government needs to be more ambitious for schools and set out a proper funding plan that addresses the 15 funding squeeze.
  • The government needs to offer more support for schools experiencing severe financial pressures as a result of rising energy costs.
  • The government should set out a proper long-term capital funding plan to bring all schools up to ‘good’ condition.
  • The government should commit to a truly ambitious recovery plan based on the work of its own recovery commissioner.
  • The government should commit to at least restoring pupil premium funding in real-term terms, and increasing the Early Years Pupil Premium to reach parity with the primary pupil premium.
  • A consultation on the long-term future of the approach to maintained nursery school funding should be launched without delay.
  • The government must use the ling-awaited SEND review to develop a truly needs-led approach to SEND funding.
  • Sufficient and sustainable funding for small schools.


What we want you to do


Our conference motion

“Conference instructs National Executive to develop a national fair funding campaign to press government  to provide a sufficient overall level of funding to meet the needs of all pupils, through the national funding formula and the high needs national funding formula. This is required now to enable schools to set budgets from 2022-2023. It would allow them to meet all their statutory responsibilities and provide an extended curriculum offer that supports all children and young people to thrive academically, socially, physically and spiritually.

Conference further instructs National Executive to campaign for an increase in capital funding that will address the nation’s decrepit school estate, to ensure that school buildings and grounds are safe, fit for purpose and appropriate for the needs of the 21st century.”

Useful links

MP roundtable resources

Other useful links

Relevant articles and reports



A failure to invest – the state of school funding 2021

New data shows England’s school children are suffering from the government’s ‘failure to invest’

NAHT's new school funding report, which is being launched in parliament this afternoon (8 Sept), lays bare the impact of over a decade of chronic underfunding of England's schools.

We surveyed over 1,500 school leaders in England over the summer, and this report shines a light on the consequences of year after year of insufficient funding:

  • Almost a third (31 per cent) of school leaders reported making cuts to balance their budget in 2020/21, rising to 35 per cent who expect they will be forced to make cuts this academic year.
  • One in four (26 per cent) school leaders predict a deficit budget in 2021/22 based on current funding levels.

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, said:
"The government's failure to invest in schools over the past decade is forcing them to cut back on staff, support for pupils, and activities that enrich the school day. Despite all the rhetoric on additional investment in schools, it is clear that school budgets remain under enormous pressure. A far more ambitious programme of investment is required from the government if schools are going to be able to deliver the education that the current generation of pupils need and deserve."

School leaders also raised particular concerns about the insufficiency of funding for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND):

  • Almost all school leaders (97 per cent) reported that funding for pupils with SEND in their school is insufficient, and similar numbers (95 per cent) reported that top-up funding for pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans was insufficient.
  • Four in five (79 per cent) said they had to fund the purchase of additional services because they were not available or accessible from health and social care.

Paul Whiteman continued:
"The crisis in funding for pupils with special educational needs is clear for all to see and is putting significant pressure on school budgets. This report underlines why a comprehensive review of SEND funding, based on pupil need, is urgently needed. Changes to the way that national funding is shared between schools will not solve the problem when there is insufficient money in the system in the first place. The government needs to increase funding so that schools are able to properly meet the needs of all their pupils."

School leaders will be speaking directly to MPs today at a parliamentary briefing organised by NAHT. This will be followed by an online rally at 5pm which anyone can attend and which will be streamed live on Facebook

We remain committed to shining a spotlight on the underfunding of schools and continue to campaign for a significant and sustained improvement in school funding. Find out more.

Our report highlights the facts and figures; our members know the day-to-day realities of trying to lead a school through extraordinary times, with ever-increasing funding pressures. Some shared their experiences with us:

Lesley Roberts, head teacher of a primary school in Berkshire
"Teaching assistants no longer help all pupils. They only work in the classes where we have children with EHCPs, as we are short to cover their needs. This then reduces our ability to release staff for training and cover our office full time. We also can't afford a caretaker or SENDco. As a head teacher in the last two years, I have been a SENDco, school business manager, caretaker and head teacher as well as cover for the office and classes. Special needs is beyond crisis in schools, it's sucking the money from budgets."

Helen Spearing, head teacher of a primary school in Staffordshire
"We have to restrict the number of school trips because we can't afford to subsidise them if parents can't afford to contribute. We have had to make the difficult decision to go through a process to change TA salaries to term time only. More and more children have complex needs which require additional support, but we don't have the finances to provide extra staff. We then have to balance the needs of one child against the needs of a class of children."

Lorna Legg, head teacher of a primary school in Devon
"We have pockets of rural and coastal deprivation here and a lack of easy access to services for our families and our schools. In fact, we have had no access to an educational psychologist for the past academic year. Special needs provision is an area where the budget has been consistently overspent, due to increasing need and lower funding than many counties, with schools being 'asked' to give more of our budget share towards filling this gap every year."

Gavin MacGregor, head teacher of a primary school in London
"We have had to cut back on our well-being and mental health support by not renewing our Place2Be counselling service. We have also had nine members of support staff leave and have only replaced two."

First published 08 September 2021