Educational Institutions: Coronavirus

Department for Education written question – answered on 1st December 2020.

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Photo of Tan Dhesi Tan Dhesi Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the financial implications of covid-19 related expenditure for (a) schools and (b) colleges.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

The Department appreciates the continued and significant efforts by schools and their staff to keep schools open this term. Returning to school full time has been vital for children’s education and wellbeing, and has rightly been a national priority. The latest published figures show that over 99% of state-funded schools are open. The Department published guidance to support schools to welcome back all children full-time. The guidance can be viewed at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools.

On 27 November, the Department announced a new COVID-19 workforce fund for schools and colleges to help them remain open. It will fund the costs of teacher absences over a threshold in schools and colleges, for those with high staff absences that are also facing significant financial pressures. The fund will help schools and colleges to meet the cost of absences experienced during the period from the beginning of November until the end of this term. More information is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-funding-to-support-schools-and-colleges-during-covid-pandemic.

Schools have also continued to receive their core funding allocations throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Following last year’s Spending Round, school budgets are rising by £2.6 billion in the 2020-21 financial year, £4.8 billion in 2021-22, and £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared to 2019-20. This includes an additional £780 million this year and £730 million next year for high needs, taking total high needs funding to over £8 billion.

As stated in our guidance, schools should use their existing resources, including these funding increases, when making arrangements to support children this term. Ministers and officials continue to engage regularly with school leaders and their representatives on a wide range of issues around COVID-19, including discussions in relation to costs faced by schools at this time. The Department will continue to review the pressures schools are facing into next term.

The Department appreciates the continued and significant efforts by further education (FE) colleges and all staff to keep colleges open this term. We recognise the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on FE colleges and have protected grant funding to the FE sector, worth over £3 billion for a full year, through paying scheduled monthly profiled payments for the remainder of the 2019-20 financial year and paying allocations for 2020-21 in line with the national profile. This year, the Department has increased investment in education and training of 16 to 19 year olds by £400 million, including an increased base rate, and more funding for high cost and high value subjects. We have also brought forward £200 million of the £1.5 billion for capital funding in colleges. For other providers with contracts with the Education and Skills Funding Agency, we set up a Provider Relief Scheme.

For colleges in significant financial difficulties, the existing support arrangements remain in place, including short-term emergency funding. The Department has also adapted and opened the College Collaboration Fund to support colleges to respond to current challenges, and we have announced the 20 colleges whose bids were successful.

My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced an extensive and unprecedented package of support measures for businesses and employees. FE colleges can apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for non-grant-funded employees, which has been extended until March 2021.

The Department is working closely with colleges to monitor the financial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and ensure that any colleges facing financial difficulties are able to access relevant support. Financial forecasts for the current year were submitted by colleges in July, and updated cashflow projections are due to be provided this month.

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