ASCL position statements

These position statements are agreed via our Funding Committee and cover:
  • school and post-16 funding
  • funding related to SEND
  • funding related to disadvantage
  • capital

What is the context?
DfE’s Condition of School Buildings Survey (May 2021) calculated the total condition need (defined as the modelled cost of the remedial work to repair or replace all defective elements in the school estate) as £11.4 billion.
The DfE Annual Report 21-22 included the condition of school buildings as one of six significant risks, classifying the risk as critical and worsening.
In June 2023 the NAO reported that DfE lacked comprehensive information on the severity of potential safety issues across the estate. The NAO also reported that DfE had been considering RAAC as a potential issue since 2018. Between 2018 and 2021 the DfE worked with the sector to raise awareness of RAAC, including issuing a survey to all responsible bodies in March 2022. However, it was not until August 2023 that technical evidence raised the level of risk to buildings where RAAC is present, leading to 174 (correct at 14 September 2023) sites having to close or partially close pending RAAC mitigations being put in place.
ASCL position
We welcome the government commitment to provide capital funding for emergency mitigation work needed to make buildings with identified RAAC safe, and the expectation that all reasonable requests to cover revenue costs will be approved. However, we urgently need assurance that access to current, and already inadequate, education capital budgets will not be diverted to deal with issues arising from RAAC in the school and college estate. The Secretary of State’s commitments currently lack necessary detail on the sources of funding and the timescale for delivery of actions to eradicate RAAC.
We call on the Chancellor to do the right thing in the Autumn Statement 2023 and provide sufficient additional capital and revenue funding so that no school or college, whether affected by RAAC or not, is disadvantaged financially by this crisis.
Why are we saying this?
The safety of all school and college buildings must be of the highest priority to government, as it is to the responsible bodies who run and maintain them.
The House of Commons briefing, School buildings and capital funding (England) confirms that between 2009-10 and 2021-22 capital spending on education declined by 50% in real terms.
Planned capital spending for the period 2022-23 was £6.4 billion. The HMT Autumn Statement 2022 document indicates planned capital spend (Education) of £7 billion for 2023-24 and £6.1bn for 2024-25.
Further Information
RAAC identification guidance

What is the context?
Too many children are missing out on the nutrition they need to thrive. There are stark inequalities in children’s health, depending on their context, such as where they grow up. Ensuring all children have the same access to school food prevents stigma and secures equity.
The current system of means testing children’s access to free school meals is just not working. According to research by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG):

  • 1 in 3 school-aged children in England living in poverty (800,000) miss out on free school meals.
  • The main cause is restrictive eligibility criteria.
  • Government action in England lags far behind that in Scotland and Wales, where government funding means primary schools are moving towards free school meals for all children.
Access to a nutritious diet has important health and educational benefits for children and young people. Improved diet increases concentration and can potentially decrease health inequalities. It would benefit all children and young people and contribute to a healthier population into adulthood.
ASCL position
All children and young people, regardless of their background, should have the same opportunity to access nutritious school food so that they are ready and able to concentrate and learn. We need a school food system that delivers good food, is fairly funded, and is accessible to all children in school.
ASCL believes that investing in good food for all children of compulsory school age reduces inequalities by improving the health and wellbeing of future generations. It supports children’s school attendance which enables them to reach their educational potential, and so play a full and productive role in the economy and wider society. 
However, funding for free school meals to improve the health and life chances of children and young people must not be taken from existing education budgets. Instead, it provides an opportunity for public spending more broadly to reduce inequality and optimise the workforce of the future.
Why are we saying this?
In 2022 Impact on Urban Health, working with PWC, produced a cost benefit analysis (CBA) of free school meal expansion. The headline findings indicate that every £1 invested in universal provision would generate £1.71 in core benefits1. The CBA evidence suggests that almost half of the benefit would be realised in increased lifetime earnings and contributions, and 54% would be realised in cost-of-living savings for families. Over a 25-year period, the research estimates a total core benefit of around £41 billion. If we take wider indirect benefits2 into account that figure could be approaching £100 billion.
In their September 2023 report, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) reported that 80% of school staff surveyed said that providing universal free school meals to all school children would reduce child poverty in their school.
Core benefits are those arising directly from the children in receipt of FSM. In this CBA they include education, employment, health and nutrition.
Wider indirect benefits are generated over and above core benefits and consider the school food economy more broadly.

What is the context?
The DfE’s SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan: Right Support, Right Place, Right time proposes a unified system driven by new national standards. Alongside these standards, the plan sets out a list of laudable intentions that government believes will improve SEND provision.

The current reality for schools is that they do not have the resources to meet the needs of the pupils they are being asked to support. The improvement plan lacks any detail of the financial modelling undertaken by the government to demonstrate where funding is available to implement the plan. 

The high needs block has increased by £2 billion in the first two years of the current spending review period (2022 – 2025). However, significant sums are needed to meet debt recovery commitments (Safety Valve and Delivering Better Value SEND programmes). It is unclear how much of the additional funding is available for investment necessary to make the system improvements that children and young people with SEND so desperately need.

ASCL position: ASCL is very concerned about the lack of identifiable funding assigned to implement the DfE’s SEND Improvement Plan. Funding allocated to high needs is disappearing into the black hole of high needs block deficit recovery and is not getting to the frontline where it can make a difference and meet need. 

ASCL calls on the government to 

  • provide a fully costed implementation plan that clearly identifies the quantifiable funding streams available to deliver all aspects of the SEND Improvement Plan
  • review and uplift the commissioned place funding factor value, which has been £10,000 since 2013, and as a result of inflation is now wholly inadequate
Why are we saying this?
The system must demonstrate good value for money, but any debt management scheme must deliver on both reducing debt and also supporting children and young people to thrive. 

ASCL members highlight the tension that exists between additional funding received into the high needs block at local authority level, and the requirement to use this to plug existing deficits, service Safety Valve agreements or support a Delivering Better Value programme. This money is not always getting to the front line.

Members also highlight the insufficiency of the £10,000 place funding, and in particular, the lack of review of this amount over many years. We are hearing that special schools are concerned about maintaining safe pupil to adult ratios. This tends to arise from a combination of insufficient funding (they cannot afford to keep current support staff numbers in post) and a recruitment and retention issue within the teaching and TA workforce.

Schools are using reserves to plug year-end deficits caused by unfunded pay awards in 2022/23, when special schools had to fund 5% pay rises for teachers and up to 10% for support staff. This is not sustainable.

What is the context? 
The notional SEN budget is a proportion of a mainstream school’s core revenue budget which is notionally set aside for meeting the needs of pupils with SEND. This is problematic because it is calculated differently in different local authorities and, more fundamentally, because it bears no relation to the actual needs of pupils in a school. 

ASCL position: ASCL believes that the SEN notional budget is unhelpful. We think that the profile of demand and distribution of pupils with SEND makes it extremely difficult to improve the accuracy of the notional budget calculation to the point where there is a good fit between the notional budget and underlying need. Instead, policymakers should focus on sufficiency and weighting of factors in the National Funding Formula methodology to ensure that schools and colleges have sufficient resource in their core budget so that funding for additionality can be targeted entirely to support those pupils who need it.

Why are we are saying this?
In ASCL's think piece Proposals for the Schools White Paper 2022 we suggested that work is required to reverse the adversarial nature that has become a symptom of the system in recent years. Addressing the inadequacy of the funding available is essential, but so is inclusive ambition. Legacy underfunding and inconsistency of provision, both in terms of the cost model and programmes of support, mean that it can be difficult to know what works well and represents value for money. This could include developing a national framework which clarifies the responsibilities of a mainstream setting and tests the adequacy of the funding mechanism. We think that this would introduce greater parity to the experience of children and young people receiving support.

What is the context? 
In the funding year 2023/24, the core schools budget is increasing by £3.5 billion (revenue) compared to 2022/23. This includes £1.5 billion previously settled as part of the October 2021 spending review (SR21), and £2 billion from the Autumn 2022 statement. The additional £2 billion will remain in the core schools budget in 2024/25.  

The core schools budget includes revenue funding available for distribution via the schools and high needs national funding formulae, the mainstream schools additional grant (MSAG)  and the pupil premium. The Autumn Statement did not include additional funding for early years or post-16 provision. 

ASCL position: ASCL welcomes the additional funding for the core schools budget announced by the government in November 2022. However, we are very concerned that the percentage increases for mainstream, special and alternative provision for 2023/24 will be insufficient to address the cost pressures related to pay, fuel and general inflation. The failure to provide any additional funding for early years and post-16 providers is simply unacceptable. The outcomes for our children and young people continue to be significantly compromised.

Why are we are saying this?
In its Annual Report on Education Spending, the IFS estimates that total school spending per pupil will grow by approximately 7% between 2022 and 2024. We are mindful that this calculation includes local authority spending, sixth form funding, and funding for increases to pension and national insurance contributions, as well as direct allocations to schools. We are concerned here only with direct allocations to schools.

In 2023, funding allocated directly to mainstream schools by the National Funding Formula will deliver an average increase of 5.6% per pupil, including the MSAG.

In the financial year 2023 to 2024, maintained special schools and pupil referral units, special and alternative provision academies (including free schools), and maintained and academy hospital schools will receive a separate allocation amounting to 3.4% of their total place and top-up funding income, similar to the mainstream schools additional grant. 

The special schools’ minimum funding guarantee (MFG) for 2023 to 2024 has been set at 3%, compared with 2021 to 2022 funding levels.. The additional funding allocations referred to above must be excluded from the MFG calculations, so that special schools receive both the 3% MFG increase over two years and the additional 3.4% in 2023 to 2024.

School costs are more closely aligned with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) than with the GDP deflator as a measure of inflation. According to the ONS, CPI was running at 10.7% (12 month rate) at the time the Autumn Statement was delivered. The OBR forecast (December 2022) for CPI across 2023 indicates an average inflation figure of 7.4%.

What is the context?
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has introduced the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS). This will provide a discount on the gas and electricity bills of eligible schools and colleges. The scheme runs for a six-month period between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023.

The scheme includes fixed contracts signed on or after 1 April 2022, and variable contracts.
The discount will be calculated by comparing the wholesale unit price that schools and colleges are paying to a baseline ‘government supported price’.

The government supported price has been set at:

  • £211 per MWh for electricity (21.1p per KWh)
  • £75 per MWh for gas (7.5p per KWh)
The support will be automatically applied to all eligible bills. 

ASCL position: While we welcome the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS), it covers only a six-month period between October and March, and it is essential that schools and colleges continue to receive support beyond this period. Evidence collected by ASCL clearly shows that unrestrained energy price rises are unaffordable and, together with the pressure of unfunded pay awards, will result in schools and colleges facing deep in-year financial deficits, with a severe impact on educational provision. We call on the government to provide financial support for energy bills beyond March 2023 and for as long as necessary to ensure that educational budgets can be spent on education.

Why are we saying this?
The big question is what happens from April 2023.

During the initial six-month period, a review will take place  to identify the most vulnerable non-domestic sectors, and how the government will continue to assist them with energy costs. Our message is very clear: all schools and colleges need continued support with energy costs and other unfunded cost pressures. The October 2021 Spending Review (SR21) did not include provision for escalating energy costs and other cost pressures that have been brought to bear by an economic landscape which has changed dramatically since SR21 was delivered. Schools and colleges need confirmation that adequate support will continue in order to plan their budgets and deliver necessary education provision. 

The current scheme only covers gas and electricity; we understand that consideration is being given to how users of oil and other fuels might be supported. 

Further information
Full details of the EBRS can be found here.

What is the context? 
In Key Stage 1 (Reception to Year 2), all children receive free school meals (FSM) under the universal infant free school meal (UIFSM) scheme. After that, the eligibility threshold is set at an annual household income of less than £7,400 before benefits. In other words, you have to be extremely poor to qualify. In June 2022 the government extended eligibility for FSM to children from families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) with a household income of less than £22,700. 

ASCL position: ASCL calls on the government to amend the criteria for free school meal eligibility by removing the current household earnings threshold and extending the entitlement to all families in receipt of Universal Credit. This is essential in order to ensure that more children and young people living in poverty are eligible for free school meals.

Why are we saying this?
According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) 1 in 3 children in poverty are not eligible for FSM. ASCL believe that all children and young people in poverty should be eligible for free school meals. 

There is no widely accepted definition of ‘food poverty’. However, a household can broadly be defined as experiencing food poverty or ‘household food insecurity’ if they cannot (or are uncertain about whether they can) acquire “an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways”.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions’ Households Below Average Income survey, in 2020/21 4.2 million people (6%) were in food insecure households. Among the 10.5 million people in relative poverty, 16% were in food insecure households, including 17% of children.

The recent increase in the cost of living has increased household food insecurity. A YouGov survey by the Food Foundation found that, in April 2022, 15.5% of all UK households were food insecure (ate less or went a day without eating because they couldn’t access or afford food).

In June to July 2022, of the 91% of adults in Great Britain who reported an increase in their cost of living, 95% saw the price of their food shopping go up, and 44% had started spending less on essentials, including food. 

Further information
House of Commons Library: Food poverty briefing here.
National Food Strategy here.

A note on Scotland and Wales
Free school meals in Scotland:
The Scottish government is gradually rolling out universal free school meals to all primary school pupils. Pupils from Primary 1 to 5 are now eligible, with the full roll-out all the way to Primary 7 expected to be completed later in the parliamentary term.

Free school meals in Wales:
The Welsh government has committed to rolling out universal free school meals to all primary school pupils by September 2024 using a phased approach, starting with the youngest pupils from September 2022.


What is the context? 
In our submission to the Spending Review 2021 we set out the following delivery expectations:

  • a three-year revenue settlement for schools which delivered real-terms annual increases in funding
  • a three-year settlement which supported increases in the high needs block, at least in line with recent allocations at local authority level and including capacity to deliver changes required by the SEND review
  • a three-year settlement for 16-19 year-olds which included an uplift in the learner rate to at least £4,760
  • a capital settlement which has capacity to adequately address the poor condition of the school and college estate

ASCL position: ASCL acknowledges the additional funding that has been made available in the SR21 settlement. However, we are disappointed that the DfE settlement only promised to deliver an average real-terms growth increase of 2.2% revenue and 0.5% capital per year for the three-year period of the review. This is below the average annual growth delivered across all government departments for both funding streams – revenue 3.3% and capital 1.9%.

This lacks ambition and does not reflect the resource required to properly address the lost learning caused by the pandemic.

And now in 2022, reflecting inflationary pressures, we call on the government to increase the DfE settlement, and specifically to provide support for the impact of surging energy prices.

Why are we saying this? 
SR21 delivered an additional £4.4bn for schools by 2024/25. According to the IFS, this increase, when combined with existing plans, would take spending per pupil to levels similar to that in 2010. In other words, no overall growth in 15 years.

The colleges sector still receives far less per learner than secondary schools at KS4 or Higher Education. SR 21 delivered an increase in the Post-16 learner rate (£4542) for September 2022. Total additional spending on FE and sixth forms represents an increase in per student spend of around 6% by 2024-25. However, the IFS predicts that, using the inflation projections available at the time of the SR (October 2021), by 2024/25 college spending per pupil would be around 10% below 2010 levels, and school sixth form spend per student would be around 23% lower than in 2010. 

The economic situation in mid- 2022 is one of rapidly rising inflation which will only serve to wipe out real-terms increases in education spending commitments made last October.  

Further information
  • Read ASCL's submission to the 2021 SR in full here
  • Read the IFS 2021 annual report on education spending in England here
  • Read SR 21 in full here


What is the context? 
We welcome the government’s focus on supporting people to retrain through their lives and gain new skills aligned to the needs of the economy. 
We continue to be concerned about the severe underfunding of the Post-16 sector, which plays such a vital role in delivering the technical and vocational education that the government says it is so keen to boost, as well as academic routes which are also of the utmost importance.
ASCL position: ASCL supports the proposal for skills being central to the government’s growth plan. However, we believe that the increase in skills education as set out in the Act will only be achievable if the learner base rate is at least adequate. It is also imperative that the cost of working with employers is recognised in that rate. 

Why are we saying this?
We believe that the systematic under-investment in education and training since 2013, including at level two and below, has contributed to the ‘forgotten third’ of young people who under-achieve in comparison with their peers. If the Skills and Post-16 Education Act is intended to be a leveller in society then education and training, including for skills, must be properly funded. 


What is the context?
The ESFA has confirmed changes to 16-19 funding for the academic year 2022/23. The headline is that the national funding rate for full-time 16 and 17-year-olds and students aged 18 and over with high needs, will be £4542 (£4188 in 2021/22). This is welcome and has been achieved using funding made available as part of the 2021 spending review (SR). The increased rate includes a commitment for provision of an additional 40 planned hours per student in band 5. In academic year 2022 /23 all institutions are expected to deliver on average 40 more hours on band 5 programmes than in academic year 2020 to 2021(the benchmark year).

In 2022/23 the annual planned hours minimum for band 5 students will be 580+.

ASCL position: we believe that where a provider delivers the minimum 580+ hours this should fully satisfy full-time funding requirements, irrespective of how many hours they have delivered in previous academic years. The same principle should apply proportionately to the other funding bands and larger qualifications such as T Levels.

Schools and colleges should not have to provide any further audit evidence over and above the census/ILR data.

Why are we saying it?
DfE expect all students funded in full-time band 5 (and all T Level students), to receive an additional 40 hours per year, (and other students to receive a proportional increase) and for providers to submit additional evidence of how this has been achieved. For example, a provider offering 560 hours might be expected to offer at least 600 hours in 2022/23. This will be monitored by the DfE with potential consequences for non-compliance. Guidance suggests that even if a provider already delivers more hours to the students than the new minimum required for their funding band, they will still expect them to proportionately increase hours for students in future years. For example, if a provider is already offering 580 hours, DfE would hope that the same provider would offer 620 hours in 2022/23. Where this is not possible providers can explain why in the end of year report. For example, if an institution’s ILR or census return showed an increase of only 30 hours above their 2020/21 baseline, the reason explained in their report could be that this was due to them changing the range of courses they deliver, with some that had a high number of hours no longer being offered, but detailing how they had added 40 hours to the courses that remain.

Further information
16-19 Funding Guidance for 2022/23 is available here
16-19 Funding guidance : Addition hours in study programmes is available here

What is the context?
In the 2022 to 2023 financial year, schools will be allocated £1.2 billion of additional funding to provide support for the costs of the Health and Social Care Levy and wider costs. This funding will be allocated through the schools supplementary grant 2022 to 2023.

The funding for maintained mainstream schools will be paid to local authorities, which will be required to pay it to individual schools at the rates published. The ESFA will pay funding at the published rates directly to mainstream academies.

In addition to the schools supplementary grant, local authorities have been allocated £325 million additional high needs funding for 2022 to 2023, on top of the dedicated schools grant high needs block allocations, calculated under the national funding formula. This includes funding for the Health and Social Care Levy and wider cost pressures in special schools and alternative provision. Those schools will not receive this additional funding under schools supplementary grant methodology, but should discuss with their local authority any increases as part of the top-up funding paid from local authorities’ high needs budgets.

ASCL position: ASCL calls on the government to issue robust conditions of grant associated to the additional high needs funding in 2022/23. Conditions of grant must require local authorities to calculate and pass on funding to special schools and alternative provision that adequately safeguards their workforce costs in respect of the Health and Social Care levy and wider cost pressures.

Why are we saying this? 
This is a very welcome addition to the high needs ‘pot’. However, we would  have expected to see a more rigorous condition of grant attached to the use of this fund. Without this, we fear that special schools and alternative provision settings are at risk of being disadvantaged compared with mainstream schools.

Further information
 Schools supplementary grant 2022/23 methodology is available here.

What is the context?
The 2019 spending review delivered a three-year plan for schools and high needs block spending. The resulting additional £7.1 billion into the Direct Schools Grant (DSG) by 2022/23 is a step in the right direction. However, funding committed in the 2019 spending review will only deliver spend per pupil levels similar to those in 2009/10.

The increase in the post-16 learner rate to £4,188 in 2020/21 was a welcome step. However, research from London Economics has shown that this rate needs to increase to at least £4,760 per student, per year to ensure that schools and colleges can continue to deliver a high-quality, internationally competitive education. The college sector still receives far less funding for its learners than secondary schools (Key Stage 4) or higher education.

The government’s own figures highlight the impact of a lack of capital funding across the school sector. The DfE’s May 2021 Condition of School Buildings Survey indicates that the modelled cost of required remedial works across the school estate is £11.4 billion.  Access to capital funding is inconsistent across different age ranges and types of school and college. The way it is allocated lacks coherence.

ASCL has welcomed the £3 billion education recovery funding to which the government has committed so far. However, this figure goes nowhere near far enough in addressing the impact of the pandemic on children and young people, particularly the most disadvantaged.

ASCL position: ASCL calls on the government to seize the opportunity of the 2021 Spending Review to address the impact of the pandemic, and to deliver funding certainty for schools and colleges for the period 2022-25. This must include

  • real terms growth in per pupil funding for schools
  • an increase in the post-16 learner rate to at least £4760
  • additional funding to implement agreed pay awards across the school and college sector
  • capital funding to address the poor condition of the school and college estate
Why are we saying it? 
We are looking to the 2021 SR to deliver the following:

A three-year revenue settlement for schools which delivers annual increases in funding. These increases should be sufficient to deliver real terms growth in spending per pupil.

A three-year settlement which supports increases in the high needs block, at least in line with recent allocations at local authority level. In 2022/3 high needs block funding will increase by £780 million and each local authority will see cash increases of around 8% per head of population. This must include capacity to deliver changes required by the SEND Review

A three-year settlement for 16 to19-year-olds that includes an uplift in the learner rate to at least £4760.

A capital settlement that has capacity to adequately address the poor condition of the school and college estate.

An education recovery package that is sufficient to address lost learning and the broader impact of the pandemic. In collaboration with a group of sector organisations, ASCL has asked the government for a three-year settlement totalling £5.8 bn in recovery funding. The package includes support for all age ranges from early years to post-16 as well as national coverage from mental health support teams.

Further information
Read ASCLs submission to the 2021 SR in full here.

Read the proposal for education recovery in full here.


What is the context?
Devolved Formula Capital (DFC) is direct funding for individual institutions to maintain their buildings and fund other small-scale capital projects. This is the intended function.

Local authorities (LAs) receive the DFC payments for their maintained schools and the LAs are required to pass on these allocations to the schools. Academy trusts, VA bodies, and other institutions receive their DFC from the DfE. Local authorities may receive a DFC payment for maintained schools that have recently converted to academies; they are required to pass this on to schools in the usual way, regardless of conversion status.

ASCL position: ASCL believes that the funding available through devolved formula capital allocations is insufficient to meet the intended function, and that the current distribution methodology does not accurately reflect condition. It is also the case that the lack of coherence between different strands of schools’ capital represents a barrier to keeping some schools in a condition deemed fit for purpose.  For example, the DFC allocation may be significantly below the minimum threshold for applying for condition improvement funding (CIF) .

Why are we saying it?
DFC is distributed according to the number and age range of pupils and an estates factor which is applied as a weighting determined by age range. 

  • In 2011/12 the  allocation for DFC was £182 million. There were 8.1 million pupils and 20,300 schools.
  • In 2020/21 the allocation for DFC was £202 million. There were 8.9 million pupils and 24,360 schools.
For primary schools, the CIF project minimum threshold is £20,000 and for secondary schools it is £50,000. A single form entry primary academy may receive around £6,500 per year in DFC funding, and a medium-sized secondary school around £18,500 (as outlined here). In both cases, the DFC allocation is significantly below the CIF project threshold.

What is the context? 
Condition improvement funding (CIF) is allocated to single academies, small multi-academy trusts and sixth form colleges via the ESFA. The school condition allocations corresponding to these institutions are aggregated to form the CIF. The CIF is a bid-based funding stream through which these institutions can access condition funding. The size of this fund  reflects institutions eligible to bid, in terms of the number and age-phase of their pupils, their location, extent of modernisation and condition. 

Responsible bodies (larger multi academy trusts and local authorities) are allocated a school condition allowance (SCA) based on the total size of the pupil cohort across the whole estate.

ASCL position: ASCL believes that there should be greater equity of access to condition funding to help improve school and college estates.

The CIF bidding process  is not transparent and is not easily accessed or successful without the engagement of costly experts to write the application submission.

ASCL believes successful applications should be linked more effectively with a robust condition data collection process which delivers funding in a way that enables school and sixth form college (SFC) leaders to plan capital works more strategically over time. This requires greater alignment between access to CIF and access to school condition allowance (SCA).

ASCL also believes the timeline from application to announcement of successful projects must be shortened to ensure that works can be scheduled to fit the regular closure periods  within the academic year. The current timing of the announcement of successful applications has slipped to late spring / summer.

Why are we saying it?  
ASCL has two concerns:

  • Firstly, there is no close link between the way that school estates condition data is collected to inform the ESFA (the Condition Data Collection) and the way in which institutions that rely on CIF can access the funding. The CIF funding annual application cycle tends not to support longer term strategic planning. This creates inequality between institutions eligible for CIF and responsible bodies which automatically receive school condition allowance (SCA). 
  • Secondly, the CIF bidding process often requires costly bid writing services to be successful, which then takes funds away from those with the greatest need.

What is the context?
Ahead of the outcome of the Ofqual consultation on the awarding process for 2021, schools and colleges have received communications from exam boards indicating that entry fees for this year will be increased.

ASCL position: ASCL is extremely concerned about the proposed increase in exam fees in 2021. It is unacceptable to implement increased fees while there is so much uncertainty surrounding the awarding process.

Exam boards must provide a clear business case to support any fee increases. The business case must demonstrate how schools, colleges and exam boards will work together, in the best interests of students and ensuring manageable workloads for staff. Arrangements should include an agreement to waive late entry fees. Schools and colleges must know what they are paying for.

ASCL welcomes the ongoing commitment by exam boards to return any money that has not been used to institutions. This should be as a cash refund and not a credit note.

ASCL acknowledges the decision to stick to the usual timeline for entries. However, these are extraordinary circumstances for institutions and exam boards, and both will need to make adjustments to support the awarding process this year.

Why are we saying it? 
The education sector is facing extreme levels of uncertainty at the moment. Costs associated with managing this uncertainty are piling up and budgets are under pressure. Schools and colleges are expecting to cover the reasonable costs of the awarding process in 2021. However, it is impossible to see how exam boards can make decisions about what these might be when the awarding process itself has not been finalised.


What is the context?
Schools and colleges have lost significant income from demand-led funded programmes interrupted by Covid-19. This funding has not been protected in the same way as that for programmes which are grant-funded.

ASCL position:
ASCL believes that all schools and colleges should be compensated for loss of income due to Covid-19 lockdown measures.

This applies to all government demand-led funding programmes, including apprenticeships and ESF programmes. This is because of the intricate link between, and impact of, funding from these programmes on core 16-19 and post-19 education.

Why are we saying it?
Government funding has protected income for 16-19s on study programmes and other grant-funded programmes, but demand-led funded provision has not been protected in the same way. ASCL believes that all forms of funding for schools and colleges should be protected whilst Covid-related activity is in place, as both demand-led and grant funding are intrinsically linked to supporting the core business of these institutions.

What is the context?
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted several aspects of child poverty, including the requirement for rapid implementation of systems to provide food or funding to eligible families during the partial closure of schools in spring and summer 2020. ASCL has been working with Bite Back 2030 in their campaign to secure free meal provision for eligible children and young people 365 days a year.

ASCL position: 
ASCL has welcomed the government’s commitment to fund free school meals during holiday periods since schools and colleges have been closed or partially closed due to Covid-19.

We believe that the government should go further and extend free meal provision for all eligible children and young people up to the age of 19 in schools and colleges during every holiday period. Schools and colleges will work with the DfE to ensure that the system works for families whilst not being overburdensome for institutions to administer.

Why are we saying it?
Evidence indicates that access to a nutritious diet has important health and educational benefits for children and young people. Improved diet increases concentration and can potentially decrease health inequalities. It is absurd to think that the recognised benefits of providing meals or funding to children and young people during term time are somehow not applicable all year round. A valuable precedent has been set by government in their decision to provide vouchers throughout the pandemic and we believe that this has set the bar for the future. 


What is the context?
Over the past decade, the cost of 16-18 education has risen significantly, the needs of students have become more complex, and the government has demanded much more of colleges and schools. But the national funding rate for 16 and 17 year-olds has remained frozen since 2013, at £4,000 per student per year. In the September 2019 spending round, the government announced that it would raise the rate for 16 and 17 year-olds to £4,188 per student.

ASCL position:
ASCL fully supports the Raise the Rate campaign ( in their call for the learner rate to be at least £4,760 per year, and for that rate to be raised in line with inflation each year.

Why are we saying it?
The increase to £4,188 is a welcome first step, but research from London Economics has shown that the rate needs to increase to at least £4,760 per student per year to ensure that schools and colleges can continue to deliver a high-quality, internationally competitive education. The ongoing underinvestment in 16-18 education is bad for students, bad for our international competitiveness and bad for social mobility. 

What is the context? The government has recently committed to additional investment in Further Education.

ASCL position: ASCL welcomes the education funding increases announced in September 2019 but is concerned that this has not included any increase for adult learners. FE colleges, which deliver the majority of adult learning, are grossly underfunded which disproportionately impacts adult learning as a consequence.

Why are we saying it? The proposed additional investment in FE is actually only for 16-19 students, some of whom will be in school sixth forms and some in FE colleges. None of it is for adult learners over the age of 19, so the language is misleading and gives a false impression that the underfunding of colleges is finally being addressed.  

What is the context? ASCL members are increasingly concerned about issues relating to the operational effectiveness and value for money of PFI contracts to which their schools are subject. The contractual obligations of a PFI contract means that annual charges are indexed and there is usually no relief available for schools, even when the individual schools budget is decreasing in real terms.

We believe that some schools which wish to join a multi-academy trust may find this difficult as a result of the complexity and financial constraints associated with a PFI contract.

ASCL position: ASCL is concerned about the very serious financial and other implications, and hence the impact on the quality of education provision, in schools locked into PFI contracts, with year-on-year increases not matched by current funding.

Why are we saying it? The education of children and young people must not be compromised by the complexity, restriction and affordability of PFI contracts.

What is the context? ASCL broadly welcomes recent changes announced to the distribution methodology of the 16-19 discretionary bursary to fund T Level industry placements, and recognises that the total amount provided for this is unlikely to change. 

ASCL position: ASCL believes that the 16-19 discretionary bursary should not be used to fund T Level industry placements and associated costs. These are new high-cost activities, which should be funded separately and on top of the existing 16-19 discretionary bursary budget. 

Why are we saying it? The guidance on the distribution methodology gives a specific example of where the bursary could be used for funding industry placements for T Level students. As these placements are for 315 hours (45 days) they will be disproportionately costly and would mean little or no remaining funding available for students on other programmes.

What is the context? The overall national education budget is not currently set such that all educational institutions are funded at a level that enables them to provide an outstanding quality of education for their students

ASCL position: ASCL believes that 19 year-old students should receive the full-time 16-19 funding rate, irrespective of what type of study programme they are undertaking. 

Why are we saying it? Students in schools and colleges are the workforce of the future. Adequate preparation for the world of work is essential in all types of qualification. Schools and colleges offering full time study programmes for students at age 19 should not be advantaged nor disadvantaged by the study programme they offer.

What is the context? Recent funding announcements regarding an increase in 16-19 funding indicate that more money will be weighted towards STEM subjects. 

ASCL position: ASCL welcomes the additional funding for higher cost 16-19 STEM subjects. However, this additional cost weighting should be applied to all 16-19 STEM qualifications, e.g. A Levels and applied general qualifications (AGQs), and not just to T Levels.

Why are we saying it? The additional cost of providing these subjects occurs regardless of the resulting qualification. 

What is the context? The current spending review period ends in March 2020. The spending review is the process by which the Treasury makes decisions on the financial settlements for each government department for the next three to five years. Each department enters into a negotiation with the Treasury to achieve the best settlement that they can get. ASCL can support that negotiation by providing evidence to support the case for sufficient funding for schools and colleges.

ASCL’s position: ASCL Council endorses the work that has been undertaken with other like-minded groups to present a joint submission to any upcoming spending review. This submission will press for four years of restorative increases in funding, followed by two years of investment to meet the True Cost of Education.

Why are we saying it? We think that effective collaboration magnifies the voice of the education sector in its negotiations. We will work with other unions and interested groups, such as the F40 group, to deliver a joint submission to the Treasury. The joint submission will include a breakdown of the funding required to deliver the education that our children and young people, from 2 to 18, deserve in the 21st century.

We believe that there is value in aligning ourselves with other organisations where there is common ground. We will also make an ASCL-specific submission to be sure that our distinctive message can also be heard.

What is the context? As part of the recent reforms to the dedicated schools grant (DSG), the high needs block is allocated according to a national formula. The reforms to the DSG include a restriction on the flexibilities that LAs have to move funds from the schools block to support other blocks, typically the high needs block. Historically, around three quarters of LAs have moved funds in this way. This policy change has brought the severity of the situation in high needs funding into sharp focus.

ASCL position: A recent Isos/LGA report adds to the existing evidence that a lack of places for SEND learners is placing significant financial stress on high needs blocks, which in turn places extra stress on school resources. ASCL calls for greater capital investment in appropriate local state SEND provision to avoid the need for LAs to commission costlier places elsewhere.

Why are we saying this? The Isos/LGA report indicates that EHCPs in state-funded schools increased by 35% in the four years up to 2018, and that there is limited capacity in special schools, as well as limited access to reasonable cost provision.

The report suggests that, if steps are not taken to address the current funding shortfall, it will rise to between £1.1 and £1.5 billion within the next few years.

ASCL position: Schools should be sufficiently funded such that parents are not being asked to subsidised their child's basic educational needs. 

Audit should not be a process that disadvantages the academy sector through being overly bureaucratic and costly in its financial reporting and recording mechanisms.

ASCL welcomes the government’s commitment to supporting young people to get the best start in life, through the opportunity that high quality education and training provides. 

However, ASCL believes that the Apprenticeship Levy does not represent value for money for schools and we require the DfE to ensure that it does not result in diverting money away from the education of young people.