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30% of Covid-19 spending comes from existing budgets, IFS warns

By Rachel Lawlerchild playing with toy kitchen

Around 30% of the funding committed to education in response to the Covid-19 pandemic will be provided by underspending or taken from existing budgets, according to new analysis from the IFS.

According to the briefing note, the government will spend around £4.3 billion on education in response to the pandemic, over two years. This includes £280 million the early years and families, including around £5 million in support such as temporary extensions and flexibility for funded childcare schemes.

However, the Department for Education (DfE) is currently only due to receive around £3 billion in additional funding from the Treasury. This leaves £1.3 billion – or around 30% of the overall budget – to be funded with existing budgets or underspends.

The IFS says that while the support offered so far is “substantial”, it is not yet clear whether it will fully cover the additional costs associated with the pandemic for schools and other providers.

Dr Luke Sibieta, research fellow at the IFS, said: “The government is widely expected to publish a long-run plan for education recovery in the coming weeks. This seems likely to place extra responsibilities and expectations on schools and other providers. It will therefore be crucial to understand how much extra funding is attached, as well as the underlying state of school and college finances. As we move back to normal, it will be harder to fund new funding commitments from existing budgets.’

Josh Hillman, director of education at the Nuffield Foundation, which funded the analysis, commented: “The government has directed considerable amounts of contingency funding towards tackling the short-term effects of COVID on education, particularly for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. However, as this research shows, tackling both the short- and longer-term effects of the pandemic on all stages of education will require considerable additional funding.

“To address learning loss and prevent the disadvantage gap widening further, the government’s forthcoming long-term plan for education recovery, led by Sir Kevan Collins, must be ambitious, with generous funding commitments for both immediate and post-pandemic education spending.”

Find out more
Read the briefing note in full here