Harsh Tory cuts to education funding over the last decade has stopped any plans of levelling up the education system with schools in disadvantaged areas set to bear the worst impacts.

The most deprived fifth of secondary schools saw a 14% real-terms fall in spending per pupil between 2009 and 2019, compared with a 9% drop for the least deprived schools, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies annual report.

Public health spending has increased as education funding has dramatically slumped.

Colleges and sixth forms faced the toughest cuts, even with the extra money from Rishi Sunak's Spending review, the think tank found.

October's Spending Review included an extra £4.4 billion for the schools budget in 2024 as compared with previous plans.


Boris Johnson's plans to level up education across the country will not take off thanks to a decade of cuts, the IFS finds (

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POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

But when combined with existing plans, analysts found spending per pupil in 2024 will be at about the same level as in 2010.

Whilst this reverses past cuts, it will also mean 15 years with no overall growth in spending.

Luke Sibieta, IFS Research Fellow and an author of the report, said: "The cuts to education spending over the past decade are effectively without precedent in post-war history.

"Extra funding in the Spending Review will reverse cuts to school spending per pupil, but will mean 15 years without any overall growth, and college spending per student will still be lower than in 2024.

“Extra funding in the spending review will reverse cuts to school spending per pupil, but will mean 15 years without any overall growth.

"Recent funding changes have also worked against schools serving disadvantaged communities. This will make it that much harder to achieve ambitious goals to level up poorer areas of the country and narrow educational inequalities, which were gaping even before the pandemic.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is a pretty dreadful legacy to have presided over cuts to education which are without precedent in postwar UK history.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are committed to levelling up opportunity for children and young people across the country, which is why we have made above-inflation increases in school funding every year since 2019/20, and have just announced a further funding boost of £4.7 billion by 2024-25, compared to previous plans. This includes an additional £1.6bn in the next financial year.

“The National Funding Formula replaced a system which was unfair, untransparent and out of date. Instead of similar schools and local areas receiving very different levels of funding with little or no justification, our system now ensures resources are delivered where they are needed most.”

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