School Spending in Wales

The Welsh Government has set out various protections for school spending since overall public spending cuts across the UK began to take effect from 2010. There is also a major drive to improve school results in light of Wales’ below-average performance in international PISA rankings for reading, numeracy and science. The level of funding available to schools and local authorities is likely to play a major part in determining the potential success of these policies. In this report, we set out a range of empirical evidence and forecasts to help inform public debate on school funding in Wales.

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Key Findings:

  • School spending per pupil in Wales fell by 5% in real-terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18.
  • This is a smaller cut than in England and Northern Ireland, where spending per pupil fell by 8% or more in real-terms, and where pupil numbers have risen.
  • The Welsh Government has committed to an extra £100m to improve school standards. Combined with other commitments, this will still lead to further cuts in spending per pupil.
  • Without further spending commitments, we project that spending per pupil will fall by nearly 9% or £500 per pupil between 2009-10 and 2020-21, taking spending per pupil back to a level last seen in Wales in 2006-07.
  • Such spending cuts will make it harder to deliver improved school standards in Wales.
  • Avoiding real-terms cuts in spending per pupil between 2016-17 and 2020-21 would require additional spending of just under £120m per year.
  • Actual spending levels will be shaped by future spending choices by the Welsh Government and local authorities across Wales. Their ability to make further spending commitments will in turn be shaped by the level of the block grant, which will be determined as part of the next UK public spending review (expected in 2019).