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Performance Tracker 2022/23: Spring update - Schools

The government is providing more funding to schools, but teacher training recruitment is at crisis level.

A teacher wears a facemask while teaching a primary school class.

The closure of schools during the pandemic was one of the starkest examples of public service disruption wrought by Covid, with in-person teaching not offered for most pupils for more than a quarter of the 2019–20 and 2020–21 academic years combined.*, 141 Department for Education, ‘Attendance in education and early years settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic: Week 28 2022’, GOV.UK, 12 July 2022,… Schools are now attempting to make up for the learning lost during this time.

But while the schools system has received relatively generous increases in recent government spending settlements, schools are having to cope with a range of extra demands on them, teacher training numbers are at crisis levels and strike action over pay is disrupting learning.

This chapter focuses on mainstream, state-funded schools in England serving pupils aged 5–16. It covers both local authority-maintained schools and academies but, unless otherwise stated, excludes special schools, alternative provision (schooling for those who cannot receive their education in mainstream schools, for example because of exclusion), early-years and post-16 education.

* This chapter refers to both academic school years and financial years. We refer to school years as 20XX–YY, and financial years as 20XX/YY.

Demands on schools have increased

Pupil numbers have been increasing overall in recent years, with a small decline in the number of primary school pupils being more than offset by an increase in secondary school pupil numbers. The government forecasts that pupil numbers peaked in 2022 and will decline for the next decade. 142 Department for Education, ‘National pupil projections: Reporting Year 2021’, 14 July 2022,

Other demands on schools have also increased. There has been a huge rise in the number of children who require a higher level of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) support. Since 2016, the number of pupils with an education, health and care plan, which sets out specific support a child requires, has increased from 237,000 to 356,000. Around half of these pupils are in state-funded mainstream primary and secondary schools. 152 Department for Education, ‘Special educational needs in England: Academic Year 2021/22’, 16 June 2022,

Many schools are also finding that they are having to do more than in 2010/11 to make up for reduced local authority services and stretched children and young people’s mental health services. 153 Institute for Government interview Reporting suggests most local authorities that previously offered educational psychologists to schools for free now charge for the service. 154 Staufenberg J, ‘Revealed: The rising costs for schools of educational psychologists’, Schools Week, 11 February 2022, retrieved 16 August 2022, And in a pre-pandemic survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research, more than half of secondary school leaders said that their school had contracted external specialists to deliver mental health and wellbeing services. 155 National Foundation for Educational Research, Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey June 2019, National Foundation for Educational Research, December 2019,

Overall per-pupil funding has increased but funding reforms saw real-terms cuts for some schools in deprived areas

In the 2022 autumn statement the schools budget received a generous settlement, with £2.3bn of extra funding in both 2023/24 and 2024/25. 156 HM Treasury, Autumn Statement 2022, CP 751, The Stationery Office, November 2022… This follows additional money being made available in the 2019 spending round and the 2021 spending review. 157 HM Treasury, Spending Round 2019, CP 170, The Stationery Office, September 2019 158 HM Treasury, Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021: A stronger economy for the British people, (HC 822), The Stationery Office, October 2021  While high inflation has eroded some of these earlier funding increases, they were great enough to mean that per-pupil funding has been above 2010/11 levels since 2020/21, with funding forecast to reach its highest level yet, of £6,892 per pupil, in 2023/24.*, 159 Department for Education, ‘School funding statistics: Financial year 2022-23’, GOV.UK, January 2023,

It should be noted that, including school sixth-forms (outside of the scope of this chapter, but where there were greater funding cuts in the years after 2010 than in 5–16 education) and accounting only for general, economy-wide inflation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasts that school spending per pupil will only return to 2010/11 levels in 2024/25. 160 Institute for Fiscal Studies, 'Education spending microsite – Schools’, Institute for Fiscal Studies, (no date) retrieved 20 December 2022,

While per-pupil funding has increased on average, the experience of individual schools varies. The government introduced a national funding formula in 2018/19 to address discrepancies in funding that schools in different parts of the country received.**, 183 Department for Education, ‘Fairer school funding plan revealed’, press release, 7 March 2016,

Schools serving more deprived communities still get more funding than those in less deprived ones. But analysis by the National Audit Office found that between 2017/18 and 2020/21 most London boroughs saw real-terms decreases in per-pupil funding, as did cities with relatively high levels of deprivation such as Nottingham and Birmingham. Conversely, local authorities with lower levels of deprivation in the South West, the East Midlands and the South East received real-terms increases. The main reasons for this were that the national funding formula newly took into account changes in the relative deprivation of places such as London and included minimum per-pupil funding that benefitted some parts of the country more than others. 184 Comptroller and Auditor General, School Funding in England, Session 2021-22, HC 300, National Audit Office, 2 July 2021

* These figures cover both mainstream and non-mainstream schools, and exclude specific Covid funding.

** The national funding formula currently operates in a form in which funding allocations set by the Department for Education can be revised at local authority level. Implementation of a ‘direct’ national funding formula, without substantial local adjustment, may not be complete until 2027/28. (Department for Education, Implementing the Direct National Funding Formula: Government consultation, p7, Department for Education, 7 June 2022,

Higher schools spending reflects increased costs

In 2021/22, £56.8bn was spent on the schools system, including non-mainstream schools, early-years and post-16 – up from £55.4bn the previous year. 185 Department for Education, Consolidated Annual Report and Accounts: For the year ended 31 March 2022 (HC 918), The Stationery Office, 19 December 2022,…

Increased spending by schools reflects extra costs. One area where spending has increased considerably in recent years is high needs – support for SEND pupils, as well as spending on alternative provision. As noted above, there has been a big increase in the number of children with education, health and care plans. Since 2017/18, the earliest year for which comparable figures exist, high needs funding has increased by 41.8%, from £5.3bn to £7.6bn. 186 Department for Education, Consolidated Annual Report and Accounts: For the year ended 31 March 2019 (HC 2388), The Stationery Office, 22 July 2019, 187 Department for Education, Consolidated Annual Report and Accounts: For the year ended 31 March 2020 (HC 865), The Stationery Office, 5 November 2020,… 188 Department for Education, Consolidated Annual Report and Accounts: For the year ended 31 March 2021 (HC 907), 16 December 2021,… 189 (For comparison, general funding to schools through the national funding formula has increased by only 17.8% over the same period.) In early 2022 the government published a SEND green paper that aimed to standardise SEND provision nationally and improve early intervention. If implemented, the proposals may have the effect of controlling SEND costs to some extent – but the government is likely to face opposition from parents given they would also reduce their freedom in picking a school for their child. 190 Department for Education, SEND Review: Right support, right place, right time, CP 624, The Stationery Office, March 2022 191 Institute for Government interview The government is expected to announce its plans for SEND reform by the end of February 2023.

Staff costs, which account for around 80% of school spending, have also been subject to several exceptional increases in recent years. 192 Department for Education, ‘Schools’ costs: 2021-22, 2022-23 & 2023-24’, GOV.UK, March 2022, p7, The employers’ contribution rate for teacher pensions increased from 14.1% to 16.4% in April 2015, then to 23.6% in September 2019. 193 Llanwarne T and Wood M, Teachers’ Pension Scheme: Actuarial valuation as at 31 March 2012, p3–4, Government Actuary’s Department, 2014 194 Clarke M and Wood M, Teachers’ Pension Scheme: Actuarial valuation as at 31 March 2016, p7, Government Actuary’s Department, 2019  Teacher pay increases from September 2022, discussed further below, were expected to average 5.4% according to Institute for Fiscal Studies calculations. 195 Sibieta L, ‘School spending and costs: the coming crunch’, Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2 August 2022,

The financial position of schools improved in the first year of the pandemic

Despite the additional demands noted above, in 2021/22 the percentage of local authority-maintained schools with cumulative negative reserves – a proxy for financial distress* – was lower than it has been for most of the last half-decade. 196 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2015-16’, GOV.UK, 15 December 2016, 197 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2016-17’, GOV.UK, 14 December 2017, 198 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2017-18’, GOV.UK, 6 December 2018, 199 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2018-19’, GOV.UK, 13 December 2019, 200 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2019-20’, GOV.UK, 21 January 2021, 201 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2020-21’, GOV.UK, 16 December 2021, 202 Department for Education, ‘LA and school expenditure: Financial Year 2021-22’, GOV.UK, 8 December 2022, Reserves improved notably between 2019/20 and 2020/21, which the Department for Education put down to the pandemic, with schools spending less on supply teachers, learning resources and exam fees among other areas. 203 Ibid. Things improved further for secondary schools in 2021/22, though secondary figures are based on far fewer schools than those for primaries so are more susceptible to larger changes. The Department for Education also says that it has been encouraging local authorities to deal with schools that have large deficits, many of which were secondary schools. 204 Institute for Government interview.

The share of academy trusts with cumulative negative reserves, including those covering non-mainstream schools, also decreased between 2018–19 and 2020–21, from 6.0% to 2.6%.**, 208 Department for Education, ‘Academy trust revenue reserves 2019 to 2020’, GOV.UK, 1 July 2021, 209 Department for Education, ‘Academy trust revenue reserves 2020 to 2021’, GOV.UK, 19 April 2022,  

* Reserves show the cumulative financial position of schools. If schools record in-year deficits this can ultimately lead to them building up negative reserves – in this situation, local authority-maintained schools are reliant on their local authority supplying additional funding. Academy trusts are reliant on support from the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

** Academy trusts’ financial years are aligned to the academic year, unlike those of local authority-maintained

Teacher numbers have grown in recent years

Overall teacher numbers have been increasing since 2018. Nursery and primary teacher numbers have been broadly stable, but secondary full-time equivalent employee numbers have increased by 4.8% over that period. 210 Department for Education, ‘School workforce in England: Reporting Year 2021’, GOV.UK, 9 June 2022,

With the number of younger children decreasing, nursery and primary pupil–teacher ratios have fallen since 2019, while the increase in secondary teacher numbers has been enough to keep secondary pupil–teacher ratios broadly stable, despite a growing number of secondary school pupils. 212 Ibid.

Teacher training numbers are at crisis levels

As has been observed at other times of economic instability, 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. 214 Department for Education, ‘Initial Teacher Training Census: Academic Year 2022/23’, GOV.UK, 1 December 2022, Trainee numbers have dropped back starkly since then, however – coming in at only 29,000 in 2022–23.

The picture in individual subjects is even less encouraging. The government sets annual, subject-by-subject initial teacher training recruitment targets, covering postgraduate training, and in many subjects shortages are both severe and persistent.

What we refer to as the underlying shortfall in initial teacher training for secondary teachers – the cumulative shortfall across individual subjects, ignoring over-recruitment in other subjects – fell in 2020–21. But it rose again in the two subsequent years, hitting 44.4% in 2022–23 – that is, a shortfall of more than two-fifths versus targets. A change in how the Department for Education calculates subject targets may have contributed to this. The new methodology is, however, intended to give a more accurate picture of whether enough teachers are being trained to meet demand. 216 Ibid. The performance in some individual subjects is even worse – the target for physics was missed by 83% in 2022–23.

Retention rates improved before the pandemic but this is unlikely to persist

Retention rates for teachers in the first two years of their career increased slightly immediately before the pandemic – for those who qualified in 2016, 77.6% were still in teaching in 2018; for those who qualified a year later, 78.3% were in teaching in 2019. 233 Department for Education, ‘School workforce in England: Reporting Year 2021’, GOV.UK, 9 June 2022, This increased further during the pandemic – the two-year retention rate was 82.7% for those qualifying in 2019, the latest cohort for which data is available.

Pay is one factor that affects recruitment and retention, and the government also increased teacher salaries in September 2022 following a one-year pay freeze. This included an increase of 8.9% for the lowest paid qualified teachers as part of plans to reach £30,000 starting salaries for all qualified teachers from September 2023 – one year later than initially planned. 234 School Teachers’ Review Body, Thirty-second report - 2022, CP 714, The Stationery Office, July 2022 235 Department for Education, ‘Government delivers landmark rises to teachers’ salaries’, press release, 19 July 2022, 236 Whittaker F, ‘Spending review: Treasury now says £30k starting salary pledge pushed back a year’, Schools Week, 26 November 2020, retrieved 5 July 2022, But while better pay for those on the lowest salaries may have some effect on retention, it seems highly unlikely that the boost to retention rates during the pandemic will persist.

Overall, teacher pay was expected to increase by an average of 5.4% from September 2022, according to Institute for Fiscal Studies calculations, an increase which schools are required to cover from the funding allocated to them in the 2021 spending review. 237 Sibieta L, ‘School spending and costs: the coming crunch’, Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2 August 2022, Members of the National Education Union – the largest education union – have begun strike action over pay, with individual schools affected on four days. 238 National Education Union, ‘NEU to take strike action over pay’, press release, 16 January 2023, Ballots held by NASUWT and headteachers’ union the NAHT failed to meet the required turnout threshold, with both planning to re-ballot their members. 239 NASUWT, ‘NASUWT confirms it remains in dispute with ministers over pay’, press release, 16 January 2023, 240 Whittaker F, ‘Teacher strikes: NAHT will re-ballot members, Whiteman pledges’, Schools Week, 25 January 2023, retrieved 30 January 2023,  

Pupils have missed large amounts of education, with primary results falling

Headteachers should prioritise vulnerable pupils, the children of key workers and those in exam years where they do not have enough staff to open fully on strike days according to newly updated Department for Education guidance. 241 Department for Education, ‘Handling strike action in schools’, Department for Education, January 2023, They should also consider providing remote education to those unable to attend in person, the guidance says.

This builds upon steps taken at the height of the Covid pandemic, when in-person teaching was interrupted by national lockdowns over the course of two academic years, with high pupil absence at other times. 242 Atkins G, Kavanagh A, Shepheard M, Pope T and Tetlow G, Performance Tracker 2021: Assessing the cost of Covid in public services, Institute for Government, 18 October 2021,

Multiple studies have found that as a result of this disruption pupils lost learning during 2019–20 and 2020–21, with disadvantaged pupils particularly badly affected. 243 Education Endowment Foundation, The Impact of COVID-19 on Learning: A review of the evidence, Education Endowment Foundation, May 2022, Available evidence, which has tended to focus on primary school pupils, generally shows that there had been some recovery by summer 2021, but that on average pupils were still behind where previous cohorts had been.

The government cancelled Key Stage 2 assessments, covering pupils at the end of primary school, in 2020 and 2021. Pupils were assessed in 2022, however, with 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. 244 Department for Education, ‘Key stage 2 attainment 2022: national headlines’, GOV.UK, 5 July 2022, Under the two forms of Key Stage 2 assessment that have been in place since 2010, this is the first time that attainment has fallen. This was driven by steep falls in maths and writing attainment, while attainment in reading increased slightly. One hypothesis of researchers is that reading skills were easier for parents to sustain during periods of school closure. 245 Institute for Government interview.

GCSEs and other external assessments were also cancelled for secondary pupils in 2020 and 2021 – with a major backlash in 2020 against plans to use an algorithm to set grades. Grades were set instead by schools and regulators in 2020, and schools in 2021, and were considerably higher than those in previous years. 246 Atkins G, Kavanagh A, Shepheard M, Pope T and Tetlow G, Performance Tracker 2021: Assessing the cost of Covid in public services, Institute for Government, 18 October 2021, GCSE exams took place in 2022, with results set between pre-pandemic, 2019 levels and 2021 levels. 247 Saxton J, ‘Ofqual’s approach to grading exams and assessments in summer 2022 and autumn 2021’, Ofqual, 30 September 2021, retrieved 10 July 2022, GCSE results are therefore of little value when trying to assess the performance of pupils in recent years. Alternative evidence – the National Reference Test, taken by a sample of pupils at the end of secondary school – found a statistically significant fall in maths attainment from shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020 to 2022, but no statistically significant fall in English language. 248 Burge B and Benson L, ‘National Reference Test Results Digest 2022’, National Foundation for Educational Research, August 2022,

On another measure of school performance, 90% of primary schools and 81% of secondary schools had good or outstanding inspection ratings as of December 2022. 253 Ofsted, ‘Schools commentary: the emerging picture from 2022/23 inspections’, Ofsted, 17 January 2023, retrieved 25 January 2023,… This is higher than was the case pre-pandemic, though fewer schools hold an outstanding rating. This follows the removal of an exemption from inspection for schools holding the highest rating in 2020, with most of these schools dropping to a good rating when inspected.

The National Tutoring Programme is reaching large numbers of pupils but evidence on its effectiveness is limited

Since June 2020 the government has committed £4.9bn for educational catch-up, allocated between the 2020–21 and 2023–24 school years. 254 House of Commons Education Committee, Is the Catch-up Programme fit for purpose?: Fourth Report of Session 2021–22 (HC 940), The Stationery Office, 2022 This is significantly less than the roughly £15bn recommended in 2021 by the government’s education recovery commissioner, 255 Rachel Sylvester, Tweet, 2 June 2021, and as such is likely to be insufficient to allow pupils to fully make up for lost learning. Of the £4.9bn, £3.5bn relates to schools, with the rest relating to early years and 16-19 education. The National Audit Office has estimated that, up to the end of the 2021/22 financial year, there had been a 14% underspend on the available schools funding. 256 Comptroller and Auditor General, Education recovery in schools in England, Session 2022–23, HC 1081, National Audit Office, 2023

Two of the main components of this support, catch-up premium and recovery premium, have provided schools with funding for general use, with limited conditions attached. 264 Department for Education, ‘Catch-up premium’, GOV.UK, 27 April 2021, retrieved 31 January 2023, 265 Department for Education, ‘Recovery premium funding’, GOV.UK, 28 September 2022, retrieved 31 January 2023 The other main component, and the more innovative, is the government’s £1.1bn National Tutoring Programme, launched in November 2020. 266 Comptroller and Auditor General, Education recovery in schools in England, Session 2022–23, HC 1081, National Audit Office, 2023,

The government has an overall target of 6m courses being taken under the National Tutoring Programme by 2024. 267 Department for Education, ‘National Tutoring Programme simplified to reach as many pupils as possible’, press release, 31 March 2022, It does not publish figures on course completions, but an estimated 2.9m courses had been started as of 6 October 2022, while individual targets for 2020–21 and 2021–22 were reached if estimated starts are again compared to course targets. 268 Department for Education, ‘National Tutoring Programme: Academic Year 2022/23’, GOV.UK, 15 December 2022, 269 National Tutoring Programme, ‘Spring term roundup for the National Tutoring Programme’, National Tutoring Programme, 1 April 2021, retrieved 1 August 2022, 270 Department for Education, ‘Hundreds of thousands of pupils benefit from tutoring’, press release, 11 January 2022,  No specific target has been published for the 2022–23 academic year, but 0.4m courses had been started in that year as of 6 October 2022.

Of the programme’s three strands, one in which schools are able to source their own tutors has proved by far the most popular. (In March 2022, recruiting firm Randstad was axed from the contract for future academic years, owing to poor take-up of the two strands it was responsible for. 274 Shearing H, ‘Covid: Tutoring cash to go straight to English schools in shake-up’, BBC News, 31 March 2022, )

An independent evaluation of the second year of the National Tutoring Programme found that 63% of school leaders and teachers who had experienced the National Tutoring Programme were satisfied with it, based on a self-selecting sample. 275 Lynch S, Lucas M, Davies E, Sahasranaman A and Schwendel G, Independent Evaluation of the National Tutoring Programme Year 2: Implementation and Process Evaluation, NFER/Department for Education, October 2022,…

A review was also completed by Ofsted, the schools regulator, based on visits to a sample of 63 schools during the scheme’s second year. 276 Ofsted, ‘Independent review of tutoring in schools: phase 1 findings’, GOV.UK, 26 October 2022,… In over half of the schools, tutoring was judged to be strong, with tutoring in some of the other schools visited having strong features – though in 10 of the schools tutoring was “haphazard and poorly planned”. Ofsted also noted that schools generally had not yet developed efficient means of assessing the impact of the tutoring.

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