Budget 2020: Schools & Academies to continue to paint with numbers

Published by Phil Reynolds on 11 March 2020

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Imagine if schools and academies had to prepare their budgets within just one month? Well that’s exactly what the new Chancellor Rishi Sunak has had to do as he delivered his 2020 Budget earlier today. So what have his Budget announcements meant for schools? Well not much unless you’re a school which has specialisms in the arts and sport!

Artistic flair encouraged?

A new £90 million Arts Premium funding was announced which will only be available for secondary schools from September 2021. This equates to approximately £25,000 per secondary school over a period of 3 years and is to be used towards arts programmes and extra-curricular activities. This may impact on schools’ strategic and curriculum plans as many may have reduced their arts offering to help reduce costs as funding proved tight.

Crunching the numbers

An additional £7 million will be provided to 11 maths schools, which will cover every region in the UK.

A kick start to an active life

£29 million a year will be made available by 2023-24 for primary schools to assist with PE teaching and making the most of sports facilities. The funding can be used towards boosting training and development. Although it is frustrating that this money is ring-fenced into a specialist area, schools should look to think as to how this funding can be used towards boosting their facilities and offering to not only pupils but also to local communities. This in turn may help generate additional funding in the long-term if used wisely.

Coronavirus help but limited

As expected the main story for the Budget centred around the government’s response to Coronavirus. It was confirmed that those employers with fewer than 250 employees (as at 28 February 2020) will be eligible for refunding eligible Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid to employees. Therefore those multi-academy trusts with more than 250 employees will not be eligible – a significant blow to finances! The refund will be limited to two weeks per employee and employers should maintain records of staff absences. There are no details regarding when the refunds will be available with news to follow “over the coming months”.

Looking after you and your staff

The basic National Insurance threshold for employees will increase to £9,500 from April 2020 meaning more take-home pay for teachers and staff. This is the first step in meeting the government’s ambition to increase the threshold to £12,500 and will save a typical employee £450 per year.

The employment allowance will increase from £3,000 to £4,000 per annum from April 2020 – a welcome boost for schools. Please remember though that those in multi-academy trusts can only claim this allowance once and not per school in the trust.

Hot air rising

Schools should take note that there will be an increase in gas rates under the Climate Change Levy (CCL) from 2022-23. However, most schools should not be charged CCL by their energy suppliers unless they have significant business activities. It is certainly worth checking those supplier invoices to ensure you don’t incur this charge now and in the future. If you have then you should contact your supplier and ask for a refund.

In summary

It was probably expected as it is fast becoming the norm now, but there was minimal news for those in education unless you are in Further Education. As usual any additional funding has been restricted into having to be used in certain areas rather than generically. There continues to be no real certainty around funding going forward and therefore schools will have to continue to adapt their budgets as and when new information is released – hardly the best way to budget and forecast. Schools will just have to continue painting with their numbers for now.

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