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 Education for all (home)

Section 10. Funding and Resources

Just as the provision of education and training is fragmented, so also is the mode of funding it. The Reviews argue for a fairer system of funding.

Key points

  • The distribution of funding between different kinds of provider is inequitable – to those with the greater learning needs less is given.
  • ‘A good deal of money spent on older children will be wasted if more is not spent on them during their primary school years’ (CPR, p.468).
  • The distribution of funding between the different age phases needs to be re-adjusted so that more goes to the neglected areas of adult education and adult retraining.
  • Local authorities, despite being the only organisations with the potential capacity for overseeing the educational needs of their respective communities and for equitable distribution of provision and resources, have had that capacity weakened.

At present

Schools maintained by Local Authorities receive their recurrent costs from the LA which in turn receives the grant from the Government. However, a growing number of Academies are funded directly from Government, and early adopters received a substantial capital and starting grant not available to mainstream schools. Schools designated Specialist have received extra income in order to specialise. Sixth form students attract a premium.

Colleges of Further Education until recently received funding from the Learning and Skills Council and now from the Skills Funding Agency, but at a 10% reduction of funds from that received by schools for doing the same work.

IFLL (p.72 sq) estimates that about £55 billion is spent on post-compulsory learning. This sum includes money spent on higher education. It comes from public expenditure (about £25 billion), employer and voluntary sector expenditure (about £20 billion) and individual expenditure (about £10 billion). The public expenditure includes about £2 billion on maintenance loans and grants, of which only 10% was directed to FE student support.

A wise and fair system

Vital to collaboration and continuity is a system which is funded wisely and fairly.  It should be wise in the sense that, especially at a time of financial constraints, money is not wasted and costly operations not duplicated. It should be fair in the sense that the same provision gets equal funding across providers and that the different needs of different phases of education – from early years to ‘the fourth stage’ of adult education – are met.

At the moment, funding arrangements are far from fair. Indeed, Nuffield Review (p.57), quoting the Webb Report, draws an analogy with the working of health care over 30 years ago when

Tudor Hall argued that an Inverse Care Law was in operation: those who were most in need receive less care than the less needy. There is a distinct danger that this is happening in education. (xxix)

For instance,

  • Level 3 work in FE is funded at a much lower level in FE than in schools, despite lower levels of educational attainment and the greater need of teaching (NR p.57).
  • Funding across phases is inequitably distributed (IFLL ch.4).
  • In 2006/7, the average school-based expenditure per pupil was £3,360 for primary and £4,320 for secondary – a disparity in funding criticised in major reports(xxx) (CPR, p.467).
  • Maintenance support for those in further education and training is much lower than for those in universities.

But also, it is a matter of not only of inequity but also of financial effectiveness. For instance,

  • There is extra cost in maintaining small sixth forms – at the same time as depressed achievements (referred to as ‘sixth form presumption’) (NR p.52-56).
  • Provision by small employers of learning opportunities for school and college students on work experience or on apprenticeships is undermined by lack of financial support.


The Reviews do offer possible ways forward.

  • Partnerships, especially for post-16, should be directly funded (NR p.170/5).
  • There should be a proportional shift to the later phases (as defined by IFLL, p.1) in recognition of the importance of adult education for re-skilling the workforce, giving

second chances to those who have failed and providing the personal and social benefits of continuing education (MCWB p.33).

  • There should be a financial entitlement to achieving a minimum level of qualification (L.2) regardless of age, with no discrimination against part-time provision (IFLL, p.2).
  • The funding of those entitlements should be channelled through a national system of learning accounts available to all over 25 and giving individuals maximum control over their use (IFLL, p.3).

The organisation of funding

The responsibility for distributing funding in a more joined up education and training would, on the surface, seem to be that of Local Authorities, but difficulties have been pointed out (NR p.57; IFLL ch.9). For example, LAs no longer have responsibility for FE and Sixth Form Colleges, but have much more extensive responsibilities than the collaborative learning centres envisaged in the Reviews.

We suggest nonetheless, if funding is to be directed to locally developed consortia or partnerships, that some form of locally organised system is needed to retain a more regional oversight of the needs of different communities and of the distribution, in the light of their assessments, of the resources to them. 

(xxix) Webb Report, 2007, Promise and Performance, Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government.

(xxx) Hadow Report, 1931, The Primary School: Report of the Consultative Committee, London: HMSO; Plowden Report, 1967, Children and their Primary Schools, London: Central Advisory Council for Education (England).



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