Assessing Covid-19 cost pressures on England’s schools

This report from UK think tank the Education Policy Institute looks at the additional costs facing schools as a result of the pandemic.

A new report by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) finds that less than a third (31%) of the additional costs facing schools as a result of the pandemic are covered by the government’s support fund. The research finds that virtually all schools have had to spend more this year in order to operate in a ‘Covid-safe’ environment, with half of schools having to use their reserves and half unlikely to balance their budget by the end of the year. The analysis, which is based on responses from over 700 schools covering March to November 2020, distributed through the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), finds that almost all schools reported extra expenditure on PPE and cleaning supplies, while a large majority faced additional costs from signage, digital equipment and handwashing facilities. Schools have also spent more on teaching staff this year and this is expected to increase in the months ahead. While the government has provided some financial relief to schools through its ‘exceptional cost fund’, EPI estimates that of the total Covid-related costs to schools in the country, the majority will not be met by the fund. This means that many schools will still be facing a significant bill following the pandemic – a shortfall which amounts to £40 per pupil and which may force schools to make savings elsewhere. This shortfall is the equivalent of half the funding allocated by the Department for Education to schools to help pupils catch up with lost learning. Significantly, while all schools have seen extra costs this year, these new findings indicate that the pressure of this additional expenditure will be felt most in schools with high levels of disadvantage. Assessing Covid-19 cost pressures on England’s schools also demonstrates how these financial pressures are likely to have long-term consequences for schools. While the Chancellor confirmed significant additional funding for schools in last month’s Spending Review, the report finds that because of the pandemic, schools are now likely to face growing challenges in both income and expenditure in the months ahead.

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