Over the past year, the government has allocated about £160 billion in additional funding for public services. Most of this has been directed towards the health service, with large sums allocated for personal protective equipment (PPE) and the Test and Trace scheme. The government is due to spend about £4.3 billion on education in England in response to the pandemic over the two years 2020–21 and 2021–22, covering the early years, schools, further education and universities. However, about £1.3 billion of this is currently due to be funded from underspending or from existing budgets, so the net increase in government spending is likely to be about £3.0 billion. This represents about 2% of total expected spending by the Department for Education over the two years.
This briefing note describes the range and level of COVID-related spending on education in England. The figures are based on Budget documentation, National Audit Office analysis of the total costs of different policies (as published in May 2021) and figures provided to parliament by the Department for Education. A downloadable spreadsheet provides the precise sources and figures.
With the government expected to announce new plans for education catch-up in the next few weeks, these figures provide a benchmark against which to judge any new spending.
Total COVID-related spending on education in England across 2020–21 and 2021–22 is currently due to be about £4.3 billion. This includes about £1.7 billion on catch-up for schools and colleges, £1.5 billion on supporting schools during the pandemic, £280 million on the early years and families, £450 million on further education and skills, and £370 million on higher education.
This covers additional spending by the Department for Education (DfE) on day-to-day and capital investment. However, the DfE is currently due to receive only about £3.0 billion in additional funding from HM Treasury to pay for this extra spending. This means that about £1.3 billion or 30% is due to be funded from underspends or from existing budgets. The vast majority of the extra spending relates to day-to-day or resource spending, with about £670 million or 16% of the £4.3 billion devoted to capital or investment spending.
Figure 1. COVID-related spending on education in England, by area of spending