COVID-19 – schools and academies: further financial support available

Published by Phil Reynolds on 7 April 2020

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Last updated 7 April 2020

The Government have today (7 April) announced further financial support being provided to schools and academies during this unprecedented time. The guidance can be read in full here.

As we know, schools and academies are continuing to receive their core funding from both the Government and local authorities. For those schools that are special educational needs, this includes any top up funding and high needs funding you normally receive. All of this is designed to ensure schools can continue to pay their employees and meet their regular financial obligations.

However, the government is fully aware that by schools remaining open there are potential additional costs they will have to meet which would not have been expected if life was “normal”. The additional costs include the following:

  • increased premises related costs associated with keeping schools open during the Easter and/or summer half term holidays, for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers, over and above the costs that schools would have faced in other circumstances
  • support for free school meals (FSM) for eligible children who are not attending school – see our other article covering FSM here
  • additional cleaning required due to confirmed or suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, in line with COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings, over and above the cost of existing cleaning arrangements

In addition, if a school or academy faces other, extraordinary costs to deliver appropriate support to their pupils through this period that are not covered by the above and cannot be met by existing budgets, they should contact DfE.CoronavirusHelpline@education.gov.uk.

Access to the funding will become available in June when further guidance will be published on how schools and academies can inform the DfE of the additional costs they have incurred from their budgets. The funding is restricted however with limits being applied as per the table below. If schools exceed these limits they will have to put a case to the DfE for further funding.

Mainstream schools
250 pupils or fewer£25,000
251 to 500 pupils£30,000
501 to 1000 pupils£50,000
Over 1000 pupils£75,000
Special schools and alternative provision
All schools£50,000

Pupil numbers will be defined by the following data:

  • 2 to 4 year olds – headcount of funded places from January 2020
  • 5 to 16 year olds – headcount from October 2019 census
  • 16 to 19 year olds – pupil numbers from 2019 to 2020 academic year allocations

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) have published a cost calculator to help schools keep a log of additional costs, which can be found here.

The funding is available to schools and academies who cannot meet the costs through existing resources or by drawing down on their reserves and thus undermining their long-term financial sustainability. The DfE do not expect a claim to be made if schools or academies are anticipating that they will add to their reserves in 2020-21. Those in multi-academy trusts should be mindful that their reserves will be seen as “one Trust” and not on an individual school basis so do consider the Trust’s overall reserves before making a claim.

Before making any claim, records need to be kept in regards to the expenditure (invoices etc). In addition, the income directly linked to the costs should be easily identifiable in your accounts. Finally, the headteacher or school business manager should sign off the claim. As such we would recommend the school or academy compiling a folder of records associated with additional COVID-19 costs and retain this for future reference (including the claim submission). The DfE refer to potential spot checks being made in the future and the fact this information will be subject to standard audit checks.

Obviously if the budgets in your school or academy trust are so tight your current cashflow requirements will not allow for payments to be made on additional costs, you should consult with the ESFA (if an academy) or the local authority (if a maintained school) to look to receive additional support.

To discuss any of the topics explored in this article, contact Phil Reynolds, Senior Manager and Specialist in Academies and Education.

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