Statistics on school funding have been a contested area over the past year and in the current general election campaign. Two party manifestos have repeated earlier claims on which the UK Statistics Authority has already commented.
The Labour Party manifesto states that “83% of schools [are] still facing cuts next year.” When the UK Statistics Authority considered an earlier version of this claim by the National Education Union we found a number of issues with its presentation. Most significantly, the calculation is a comparison between 2015/16 and 2020/21. It does not refer specifically to changes due to occur next year. Following discussion with the Office for Statistics Regulation in January, the Union made changes to their School Cuts website to explain the methodology. Without this context, the headline statement is likely to give an unclear impression of future changes in school budgets.
The Conservative Party manifesto refers to past announcements of increased funding for schools in England. The section about investing in schools includes the statement that there will be “an extra £14 billion funding for schools”. In October 2019, the Office for Statistics Regulation pointed out in a statement that this figure is calculated by adding together and then rounding increases across three years. The figure is not adjusted for inflation and represents the total increase in expenditure in cash terms across these years. In October, we therefore emphasised the need for clarity on what the figures represent. The manifesto fails to provide this clarity. The manifesto introduction mentions a time frame when referring to this increase, however when explaining changes in school funding dates or baselines are not given. The manifesto also translates the figure into a per week basis. The basis for the per week calculation is unclear.
Following the Office for Statistics Regulation’s previous work in this area, the Authority is encouraged by the Department for Education’s announcement that it will be publishing new summary statistics on school funding in January 2020.
Notes to editors
The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. OSR provides independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.
For more information please contact the Authority press office on 07810 657 788 or the OSR press office on 020 7592 8659.