The campaign to Stop School Cuts

We’ve relaunched the campaign to Stop School Cuts in the lead up to the 2024 General Election.

We’re calling on the Government to fully reverse the devastating cuts schools have suffered since 2010 and start restoring proper funding to give every child a decent education.

You can help by asking your local candidates to pledge to stop school cuts.

The problem

It’s simple: less money means fewer resources.

7 out of 10 schools in England have less funding in real terms than in 2010, which means that they can’t afford the same essential running costs they could 14 years ago.

That’s 13,144 schools in England. Broken down, it’s two thirds of all primary schools and nearly 9 in 10 of secondary schools.

With over 14 years of devastating cuts, the Government has failed our children.

The impact on schools

Heads, teachers and school staff have done all they can to shield children from the impact of cuts.

They’ve done their best to continue delivering high standards of education, but our schools are at breaking point.

Subjects have been cut, support staff are being let go, and school facilities are crumbling.

Headteachers have had to make impossible choices to balance budget sheets and keep schools running with reducing funding.

And every time, it’s taken a heavy toll on children’s learning.

What we need

We’re calling on the next Government to reverse the impact of 14 years of Government cuts. 

This means:

  • £3.2 billion for the core schools budget 
  • £4.6 billion for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities funding to ensure that children with SEND are receiving the support they need. 
  • £4.4 billion to begin to repair school buildings and bring facilities up to scratch.

In total, we need £12.2 billion from the Government to stop the crisis in our schools from getting any worse.

What’s next

We won’t stop till every penny is returned to school budgets and we won’t stand by while the Government tries to balance their books on the backs of our schools and at the expense of our children.

We’re not going to accept second-best for our children. We know what this country can do when we put our effort into something.

Who runs the campaign to Stop School Cuts

The campaign to Stop School Cuts is run by the National Education Union,  the largest education union in Europe. We’re supported by Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers, National Governance Association and ParentKind.

Our campaign from 2016 to 2019 won a series of concessions from successive Prime Ministers. 

We won money for children with special educational needs, for maintained nurseries and mainstream schools. 

In total, we won a massive £21bn for school budgets and after the 2019 election, because of our campaign, things started to improve. 

The Government never kept its promise to fully reverse the cuts to schools. 

Together we’ll make a noise so loud, no politician can ignore us. And we will win back the money our schools need and our children deserve.

What has happened to school funding since 2010?

The Government like to boast that increases to school funding, “restores 2010 levels of per pupil funding in real terms and provides an average cash increase for every pupil of more than £1,000 by 2024-25, compared to 2021-22.”[1] However, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) have pointed out, “no net growth in school spending per pupil over a 14-year period still represents a significant squeeze on school resources”[2] This analysis seeks to quantify that squeeze on resources for mainstream state schools that educate the vast majority of the nation’s children.

We have looked at mainstream schools’ core funding and then used schools’ costs to adjust funding into real terms.

During the Coalition Government, there was an increase in the spending power of mainstream schools. The two significant factors were the introduction of the Pupil Premium which increased funding by £2.2bn a year and the three-year staff pay freeze, which held down schools’ costs.

At the 2015 Spending Review, George Osborne took three measures that sharply squeezed schools’ spending power. First, he increased school funding in line with inflation but ignored the large rise in the number of pupils. Second, he abolished the Education Services Grant cutting £1bn from school funding. Finally, he did not compensate schools for the significant increase in employers’ National Insurance contributions that he had created by removing the contracting out rebate.

Following the 2017 General Election where school funding featured prominently[3], Justine Greening, then Secretary of State for Education, announced that the Government would maintain per pupil funding in real terms[4]. This slowed the decline in schools’ spending power; however, it did not arrest it completely because schools’ costs ran higher than the Government’s preferred measure of inflation.

From 2020, there were two years of real growth in school funding. This was the result of Boris Johnson’s increased investment announced at the end of August 2019[5]. However, the exceptional increase in inflation in 2022-23 resulted in real terms funding contracting again in both 2022-23 and 2023-24.

Mainstream schools’ core funding has fallen from £6,600 per pupil in 2010-11 (2023-24 prices) to £6,178 today. This is a reduction of 6 per cent, which is equivalent to a cut in school spending power of £3.2bn.

An Uneven Picture

The Government has changed funding mechanisms and funding streams since 2010-11 and consequently individual schools’ funding settlements vary significantly.

School Phase

The largest point of difference is school phase. This has primarily been caused by the introduction of the Pupil Premium, which was designed to give a greater amount of funding to primary schools – the rate per pupil is 40 per cent higher in primary schools and a greater proportion of pupils are eligible to receive it.

Primary school per pupil funding has fallen to an average of 4 per cent below 2010-2011 levels, while secondary school funding has fallen even further, to an average of 9% below 2010-11 levels.

As a result, class sizes and the proportion of pupils in classes with more than 30 pupils have increased significantly in secondary schools. There are now more than 1 million pupils taught in classes with more than 30 pupils.


When a comparison is made between schools based on levels of pupil poverty, again clear differences emerge. There are two factors driving this; one is the introduction of the Pupil Premium between 2011 and 2015, and the phased introduction of the National funding Formula since 2018.

The National Funding Formula (NFF)[6] is the largest reorganisation of school funding in decades. It creates a national system to determine school funding and even out local variation.It is being implemented at the same time as this funding is being cut in real terms; as a result some schools have faced severe cuts. At the same time, the schools which were recognised to be underfunded have seen only very small real increases in their income.

Primary schools with high levels of pupil poverty initially saw large increases in their average income while those with the lowest levels of poverty saw very little change for the first five years. Then as George Osborne’s cuts bit between 2015 and 2017 funding fell across the board. The NFF changed the distribution of funding because funding rose well below costs for schools with the highest levels of poverty. This negated the increases schools with higher levels of poverty received through the Pupil Premium. For schools with all but the highest levels of pupil poverty, funding is about 5 per cent lower than it was in 2010-11 and for schools with the most deprived intakes it is 3 per cent lower on average.

The changes in distribution of funding between secondary schools when they are grouped by the level of pupil poverty is like that in the primaries; however, the Pupil Premium resulted in a lower initial increase in funding and the cuts have been a bit harder. Secondary schools with the least deprived intakes have suffered the largest cuts (10%) and this is followed by schools with the most deprived intakes (9%). For schools with an average level of pupil poverty their funding has been cut by 8 per cent, so there is not a vast difference between schools when they are grouped by pupil poverty; however, individually there is great variation.

Local Authority

There is significant variation between schools when you group them by local authority area. Only 9 out of 150 local authority areas have seen an average increase in per pupil funding. These are Knowsley, Blackpool, Merton, Derbyshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Croydon, Cambridgeshire, Hartlepool, and Shropshire. The increases are very modest and in all them at least a quarter of schools have had their funding cut.

The worst hit twenty local authority areas are: Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Slough, Lambeth, Southwark, Haringey, Westminster, Harrow, Wandsworth, Waltham Forest, Lewisham, Nottingham, Thurrock, Camden, Brent, Newham, Greenwich, Havering, and Hounslow. The cuts in these local authorities are severe and in most 90 per cent of schools have had their funding reduced.

Differences with Institute of Fiscal Studies calculations

There are two big differences between the approach we have taken and that taken by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) define school funding[7] much more widely than we have. They include all funding for schools, mainstream and special, all funding for early years providers, school sixth-form funding and funding to local authorities for educational provision. We have looked at core funding for mainstream schools used to cover basic provision – staff salaries and other running costs.

The other major difference is that the IFS use general inflation (GDP Deflator) whereas as we estimate schools’ costs to convert prices into real terms, since 2010-11 the GDP Deflator has risen by 41 per cent whereas we estimate schools’ costs have risen by 46 per cent.

Currently there is a large distortion in the overall education budget created by the increase in pupils identified as having high-level special needs. Between 2015 and 2023 the number of pupils with an EHCP increased by 115 per cent[8] (from 240,183 to 517,026) and the High Needs budget increased by 90 per cent (from £5.2bn[9] to £10.0bn[10] in 2023-24). Funding has not kept up with the number of pupils, and as a result state special schools and pupil referral units are under financial pressure. Local authorities have been forced to place pupils in independent special schools due to a lack of places in state special schools and funding is being spent outside the state sector in independent schools, non-maintained special schools, and independent special schools. Places outside the state sector are twice as expensive as those in the state sector and in 2022-23 the total cost was £2bn[11]. The Schools Block which provides the vast majority of the funds for the education of pupils without high level special needs (96% of pupils) only grew by 38 per cent between 2015-16 and 2023-24.

The virtue of the approach used by the IFS is that it is possible to make decades long studies of school funding and the IFS has made an important contribution to the understanding of school funding with their many excellent reports. The advantage of our approach is that it gives a good idea of the financial position of individual schools and therefore can inform parents about the position of their child’s school.

[1] HM Treasury, Autumn Statement 2022, 17 November 2022

[2] IFS, Annual report on education spending in England 2022, December 2022

[3] BBC News, Did teachers wipe out Theresa May’s majority?, 6 April 2018

[4] Hansard, Schools Update, 17 July 2017

[5] DfE, Prime Minister boosts schools with £14 billion package, 30 August 2019

[6] DfE, National funding formula for schools and high needs, 14 September 2017

[7] IFS, Annual report on education spending in England 2023

[8] DfE, Education, health and care plans, 12 May 2022

[9] DfE, Dedicated schools grant 2015 to 2016, updated July 2016

[10] DfE, 2023 to 2024 schools and high needs additional allocations, December 2022

[11] DfE, LA and school expenditure, 25 January 2024, i) Expenditure on schools, other education and community