Summarising the post-pandemic effects on schools.
Impact of Covid
The closure of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic was one of the starkest examples of public service disruption, with in-person teaching not offered for most pupils for 24 weeks across the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years. Schools are now attempting to make up for the learning lost during this time.
Increase in spending
While schools are receiving more funding than at any point in the preceding decade, staffing costs have increased, insufficient numbers of teachers are being trained in many subjects and schools are having to do more to support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
In both the 2019 and the 2021 spending rounds, the government allocated more money to the core schools’ budget. This has been enough to counterbalance increasing pupil numbers: per-pupil funding for the 2021/22 financial year reached its highest level since 2010/11 in real terms, with schools receiving an average of £6,510 per pupil. This was intended to increase again in 2022/23, but high inflation will have eroded some of this gain. The Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts that spending per pupil will only return to 2009/10 levels in 2024/25.
But while per-pupil funding has increased on average, the experience of individual schools varies. The national funding formula, introduced in 2018/19, has benefited some parts of the country more than others.
Teacher recruitment was boosted by the pandemic with more than 40,000 new entrants to initial teacher training in 2020/21 – the highest level since at least 2009/10. In secondary schools, the government hit its overall target for postgraduate teacher training – the first time this has happened since 2012/13. Trainee numbers dropped back in 2021/22 and the government is not training enough teachers in all areas. This cumulative shortfall rose again in 2021/22, hitting 29%.
Overall, teacher pay was expected to increase by 5.4%, a rise which schools are required to cover from the funding allocated to them in the 2021 spending review.
For two academic years in-person teaching was interrupted by national lockdowns, with high levels of pupil absence at other times. Pupils sat Key Stage 2 tests in 2022 with interim results showing a fall in the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standard in reading, writing and maths from 65% in 2019 to 59% in 2022. This is the first time that attainment has fallen since 2010.
Since June 2020, the government has committed £4.9bn for educational catch-up, the largest component of this is tutoring interventions via the National Tutoring Programme. In March private provider Randstad was axed from the contract, owing to poor take-up. But as of June 2022 an estimated 1.8m courses had been started in the 2021–22 academic year. This is around 90% of the government’s target, if every course that was started was completed.