Financial Year 2020-21

LA and school expenditure

This is the latest dataOfficial statistics
Published

Introduction

This release contains detailed information on income, expenditure, and revenue reserves of local authority maintained schools

It also includes expenditure by local authorities on education, and children’s and young people’s services. This includes education by sector, Sure Start children’s centres, children looked after, family support services and youth justice. 

The latest information relates to 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 therefore includes details of grants paid to schools during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's figures show differences from previous years due to the impact of COVID-19 on the way schooling was delivered. Further details on the situation in schools during this period can be found in a timeline available here. As such, caution should be exercised when drawing comparisons over multiple years. 

This publication does not include expenditure by academies which is published separately. The number of schools that have converted to academies continues to increase, therefore caution should be exercised when drawing comparisons over time. 

All figures in this release are presented in cash terms and are not adjusted for inflation. Figures for income and expenditure per pupil or per capita are shown to the nearest whole number. Figures for income and expenditure are shown as £ million in the accompanying data tables. 


Headline facts and figures - 2020-21

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School income and expenditure

Information on income, expenditure and revenue reserves of local authority (LA) maintained schools is sourced from Consistent Financial Reporting (CFR) returns that are provided by schools. Further information on CFR returns can be found here.  

Information for individual schools is available on the Schools Financial Benchmarking website.

The number of schools that were academies has increased over time. This publication does not include income and expenditure for academies who return their financial information through the Academy Accounts Returns. As the proportion of academies increase, the number of LA maintained schools available to make a CFR return decrease. For the financial year 2020-21, 12,655 LA maintained schools made a CFR return, 4% lower than 2019-20 and 25% lower than 2015-16.  Therefore caution should be exercised when comparing trends over time and overall totals should not be used for comparison purposes.

i) School income

In the financial year 2020-21, LA maintained schools had a total income of £23.8 billion, similar to 2019-20 when income was £23.7 billion. This included:

  • Funds delegated by the LA for the school, 
  • Funds for minority ethnic pupils and those with special educational needs,
  • Pupil premium grants, 
  • Other grants and funding, 
  • Self generated income. 

In 2020-21, income also includes the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the DfE grant scheme for reimbursing exceptional costs associated with COVID-19, and income from the COVID-19 catch-up premium.

Although the overall total income for LA maintained schools is similar to 2019-20 in cash terms, the number of schools, (and subsequently pupils) in receipt of this income is lower. Comparisons of income per pupil therefore give a better picture of the trend in school income since 2015-16. Places in both pupil referral units and special schools attract high needs funding therefore per pupil income is substantially higher.

The majority of LA maintained school income comes from LA funding and other grants. In 2020-21, 96% of funding came from LA funding and other grants (excluding COVID-19), 3% was self generated and 1% was from COVID-19 related grants.  

In total, LA maintained schools received £23 billion in grants funding for the financial year 2020-21. This included: 

  • £19.1 billion delegated by the LA (including sixth form funding)
  • £1.6 billion funding for special educational needs (SEN)
  • £1.1 billion for pupil premium 
  • £889.7 million from other grants (including extended school funding)
  • £267.2 million in COVID-19 related grants
  • £45.3 million for community focused school funding
  • £16.8 million for minority ethnic pupils

The amount of grant funding received by LA maintained schools are shown in the table below. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, opportunities for schools to self generate income (for example through facility hire) was limited. Self generated income decreased from £2.2 billion in 2019-20 (7% of all income) to £1.1 billion in 2020-21 (3% of all income). The largest drivers of this decrease were catering and lettings (both down by around 60%).

£267.2 million (1%) of school income in 2020-21 came from COVID-19 related grants:

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) -  £20.8 million - The CJRS was payable for only certain categories of staff. Where staff were  wholly or significantly funded by self generated income, schools were able to use the CJRS to protect these staff. 
  • DfE grant scheme for exceptional costs due to COVID-19 -  £72.0 million - The exceptional costs grant covered unavoidable costs incurred between March and July 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak that could not be met from their existing budgets. This included additional cleaning costs. Further information on all COVID-19 expenditure categories is included in the methodology document. 
  • COVID-19 catch-up premium - £174.4 million - The COVID-19 catch up premium was announced on 20 June 2020. It aims to support children and young people to catch up on missed learning caused by COVID-19.

Full details of all school income can be found in Table 1.

ii) School expenditure

Gross expenditure: Total financial spending by LA maintained schools, before any deductions are made.

Net expenditure: Financial spending following deductions of income from catering, supply teacher insurance and community-focussed income.

Gross expenditure reported by LA maintained schools has decreased every year since 2011-12 driven primarily by school conversion to academy status and therefore reduction in the number of schools included within this publication. 

In the financial year 2020-21, LA maintained schools had a total gross expenditure of £23.1 billion, 3% lower than in 2019-20 when total expenditure was £23.7 billion. This included:

  • £11.6 billion (50%) spent on teaching staff (including supply teachers)
  • £4.3 billion (19%) spent on education support staff
  • £2.9 billion (13%) spent on supplies and services.
  • £1.4 billion (6%) spent on premises related costs

Due to the changed situation in schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the way that schools utilised their finances change in a number of ways since the previous financial year. In particular, school spending on premises and supplies accounted for a lower percentage of the overall spend than in 2019-20. 

Areas of expenditure which declined in 2020-21 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic included:

  • Staff development and training (37% decrease)
  • Learning resources (33% decrease)
  • Supply teachers and agency supply teaching staff (28% decrease for all supply costs)
  • Catering (24% decrease)
  • Exam fees (24% decrease)
  • Bought in professional services relating to curriculum (20% decrease)
  • Community focused spend (20% decrease for all community related costs)
  • Energy costs (14% decrease)
  • Water and sewage costs (12% decrease)

Also believed to be due to the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way that education was delivered, spend on ICT resources increased by 16%. 

Full details of all school expenditure can be found in Table 2

In total, £11.6 billion and £4.3 billion was spent by schools on teaching staff and education support staff respectively in 2020-21. This includes £0.4 billion spent on supply staff costs.

Education support staff include teaching assistants, who are more widely employed in primary and special schools. In 2020-21, 19% of total gross expenditure in primary schools and 34% in special schools was spent on education support staff. This compares to 10% in secondary schools. These figures are slightly higher than in 2019-20.

Due to both the decrease in the number of maintained schools, and changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more useful to compare the average spend per pupil over time. The chart below shows spend per pupil, by phase of school, for all years from 2015-16. 

Expenditure per pupil in PRUs has risen, despite a decrease in overall expenditure. This is due to the lower numbers of pupils registered in PRUs. Figures previously published by the department, show that the number of pupils registered in PRUs declined by 17% between January 2020 and January 2021. Fewer pupils were referred to PRUs from mainstream schools and fewer requests were made for assessments for education, health and care plans, both as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nursery pupil numbers decreased by 10%, also potentially as result of the pandemic. This decrease contributed to the higher expenditure per pupil figures.

The net expenditure per pupil varies by local authority; higher amounts are seen in Inner London authorities. 

The expenditure per pupil, for primary and secondary schools, for each LA is provided in the map and table below. Selecting a LA in the map will  display its overall expenditure per pupil by for primary and secondary schools. 

iii) School revenue balances

School revenue balance:  The financial balance at the end of the year, once income, expenditure, committed expenditure and previous year's revenue balance has been taken into account.

Deficit: When a school's expenditure is higher than this year's income, once the previous year's balance has been taken into account. A negative revenue balance.

Surplus:  When a school's expenditure is lower than this year's income, once the previous year's balance has been taken into account. A positive revenue balance.

In 2020-21, of the 12,655 schools that submitted CFR returns:

  • 1,059 (8%) schools were in deficit 
  • 11,531 (91%) were in surplus
  • 65 (<1%) had a revenue reserve of 0.

In 2020-21 the percentage of schools in deficit decreased to 8%, from 12% in 2019-20. This is the largest year-on-year decrease since records began in 2003. The percentage of schools in deficit is now at its lowest level since 2016-17. 

Income and expenditure figures for 2019-20, and 2020-21 show that income of LA maintained schools was similar in both years but expenditure declined, contributing to the decrease of schools in deficit.  

The percentage of schools in deficit declined for all school types, with the exception of nursery schools. The percentage of nursery schools in deficit increased to 25% from 21% in 2019-20. The percentage of secondary schools in deficit declined the most of any school phase; to 20% from 27%.

This revenue reserves data is the first which covers a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic. As outlined under the section on expenditure above, during this time, schools reduced their spend on areas such as supply staff and supplies, and they may also have held back planned expenditure on maintenance. Although they have also lost self generated income such as that from lettings and catering, this is generally lower than the amount saved, therefore increasing their revenue reserve. 

The number and percentage of schools in surplus/deficit, plus total amounts of revenue reserves is available in Table 3

In 2020-21, the average revenue balance per school increased to £160,490 from £110,690 in 2019-20. 

The average revenue balance increased for all school phases, with the exception of nursery schools. For nursery schools, average revenue balance decreased to £68,740 from £71,629 in 2019-20. 

Alongside the decrease in the percentage of schools in deficit, the revenue balance of schools in deficit has decreased for most school types. For schools in surplus, the revenue balance has increased.

For instance, total balance of secondary schools in deficit reduced from £150 million in 2019-20 to £128 million in 2020-21. Total balance of secondary schools in surplus increased from £275 million to £379 million.

There is substantial variation in the percentage of schools in deficit around the country. Some LAs have no schools in deficit and others have a third of schools in deficit (for primary) or all schools in deficit (for secondary). 

The percentage of schools in deficit by LA is provided in the map and table below. Selecting an LA in the map will  display its  percentages of schools in deficit.

Local authority expenditure

Local authority (LA) expenditure is collected via Section 251 Outturn returns. This information is the local authority expenditure on:

  • Schools (which forms part of LA maintained school income), community and other education
  • Children's and young people's services 

over the previous financial year. In this case, this is the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. Further information on Section 251 Outturn is available here

In the financial year 2020-21, local authorities spent a total of £41.5 billion on schools, education and children's and young peoples services. School expenditure accounts for over two-thirds of this expenditure, continuing the trend seen in recent years

The number of schools that were academies has increased over time. This publication does not include income and expenditure for academies who return their financial information through Academy Accounts Returns. As the proportion of academies increase, the expenditure of LAs on maintained schools decreases. Therefore caution should be exercised when comparing trends over time and overall totals should not be used for comparison purposes.

i) Expenditure on schools and other education

In 2020-21, LA gross expenditure on schools was £27.4 billion. This includes £19.7 billion for individual school budgets. The remaining £7.7 billion was spent on other services, including behavioural support, museum and library services, top up funding and SEN support, among others.

Despite the continuing decrease in the number of local authority maintained schools, figures for expenditure on schools are 3% higher in cash terms than in 2019-20. This reverses the trend seen in recent years.

A further £3.0 billion was spent on the other education and community budget.

While gross expenditure on the other education and community budget is 2% lower than in 2019-20, income in this category reduced more (by 13%). This means that net expenditure (gross expenditure minus income) has increased by 2% from 2019-20. Expenditure per pupil has increased correspondingly.

Table 4 provides expenditure on schools and other education and community, by category, for the financial year 2020-21.

Within the schools budget, most categories of expenditure follow the trends seen in 2019-20.  The exceptions to this are:

  • Licenses and subscriptions: decrease of 14% in 2020-21 following an increase in 2019-20. 
  • Museum and library services: decrease of 47% in 2020-21 following an increase in 2019-20.

Expenditure by local authorities on other education and community shows that the spend on:

  • Central support services increased by 62%
  • Education welfare services increased by 47%
  • Adult and community learning decreased by 28%
  • Premature retirement cost/ redundancy costs decreased by 39%
  • Monitoring national curriculum assessment decreased by 34%.

ii) Expenditure on children's and young people's services

In the financial year 2020-21, local authority expenditure on children's and young people's services totalled £11.1 billion. This included:

  • £5.7 billion (51%) Children Looked After
  • £1.3 billion (12%) Family Support Services
  • £2.8 billion (26%) Safeguarding Children and Young People's Services
  • £379.4 million (3%) Services for young people, including £7.9 million on substance misuse and £2.7 million on teenage pregnancy services
  • £286.5 million (3%) Youth Justice
  • £0.7 million (5%) on Sure Start children's centres and other spend on children under 5
  • Other children's and families services (1%) .

Full details of expenditure in all categories for the financial years 2015-16 to 2020-21 can be found in Table 5.  

Sure Start Children's Centres & other spend on children under 5

In 2020-21 LAs spent £510.7 million on Sure Start children's centres and other spending on children under 5. This represents decrease of 8.4% from 2019-20.  This decrease in spending is consistent with the trend which has been seen in each year since 2010-11.

Children Looked After 

Expenditure on children looked after consistently forms the largest proportion of LA spending on children's and young people's services.

In 2020-21 LAs spent £5.7 billion on children looked after, an increase of 7% from 2019-20. Figures published in November 2021, available here, show that the number of children looked after is at an all time high. Expenditure has followed this pattern; total expenditure per child (based on the population aged 0 to 17) is £437, higher than any point in recent years.

Within children looked after expenditure, the following categories of spend increased in 2020-21 compared to the previous financial year:

  • Residential care, increased by 14%
  • Leaving care services, increased by 13%
  • Special guardianship support increased by 10%.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, expenditure on short breaks (respite) for disabled children looked after declined by 30% and services for asylum seeker children by 3%. 

Family support services 

In 2020-21 £1.3 billion was spent on family support services. This includes, direct payments, short breaks (respite) for disabled children, targeted and universal family support.

Spend on short breaks for disabled children decreased by 5% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however other support for disabled children increased by 31% over the same period.  This may indicate that local authorities were changing the nature of support offered to these children.

Safeguarding Children and Young People's Services

In 2020-21 £2.8 billion was spent on services for safeguarding children and young people. Of this, 89% was spent on social work (including LA functions in relation to child protection). This percentage has varied little in the years since 2015-16. 

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These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
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  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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