What a coincidence. Education secretary Gavin Williamson namechecks the Confederation of Schools Trusts in a Commons debate on 14 January. Three days later, CST publishes a ‘think piece’ which says all English schools are ‘irrevocably’ moving towards mass academisation and academy trusts need to seize the ‘narrative’.
Williamson was responding to a remark by Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton, who highlighted a drop in funding in his constituency. Williamson first mocked Cunningham’s maths skills before pointing him towards figures compiled by the CST which show what each school will receive in 2019/20 and 2020/21.
I wonder if Williamson has actually looked at these figures himself. If so, he’d find they are in cash terms only and not adjusted for inflation. This difference is something that concerned Thangam Debbonaire, Labour MP for Bristol West:
‘Does my hon. Friend agree that the failure to recognise the difference between a real-terms and cash increase is frustrating for headteachers? In schools in my constituency, headteachers tell me that they do not have a real-terms increase—they have a real-terms decrease, even if, in some schools, it looks like a cash increase.’
The CST’s methodology document actually admits real term funding has fallen:
‘We know that national spending per pupil fell by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18.’
Funding has remained constant in real terms up to this academic year (2019/20), CST pointed out, but per pupil spending was ‘more than 60% higher in real terms than in 2000/01’.
I don’t think Williamson will need reminding that Labour was in power from 2000/01 to 2009/10. Any rise in funding is thanks to them. It will not be until 2022/23 that funding will return to 2009/10 levels.