Financial year 2021-22

School finances during the Covid-19 pandemic

This is the latest data
Published
Release type

Introduction

The analysis has been produced in response to the National Audit Office’s (NAO) recommendation that we systematically assess the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on schools’ finances.

This release looks at how schools’ finances changed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, broken down by LA maintained school or academy data. 

Income and expenditure categories data is given for each financial year (for LA maintained schools) 2019-20 to 2021-22 or academic year (for academies) 2018/19 to 2020/21 and has also been aggregated by phase for both LA maintained schools and academies. Furthermore, the revenue reserve data by phase has also been included. The data shows both a monetary and percentage comparison between each year’s data which accounts for changes in accounting procedures for each year, hence allowing for a more accurate comparison.

Various Covid-19 lockdown restrictions occurred intermittently between March 2020 and March 2022 and these will have impacted our data in different ways throughout this two-year period, for example through coronavirus grants to schools and restrictions on self-generated funding when schools were closed.

The schools’ financial data is released annually and can be found within the data sources and interpretation section of the school financial benchmarking website. Not only are there different reporting periods for local authority consistent financial reporting (CFR) and academies account returns (AAR), but the data is also lagged and not released until approximately eight months after the financial (for CFR data) or academic year (for AAR data) has ended.

Due to the different reporting periods for CFR and AAR, caution should be taken when comparing data across types of schools. 

There are also official LA and school expenditure statistics released annually using similar data which contain more detailed information on income, expenditure and revenue reserves of LA maintained schools. However, that release does not include academy data. This publication ‘School finances during the Covid-19 pandemic’ differs from the LA and school expenditure release as it has been produced in response to an NAO request.


Headline facts and figures - 2021-22

Executive Summary

This analysis looks at what happened to academy and LA maintained school finances over the Covid-19 period. A full timeline of Covid-19 restrictions is available from the Institute for Government, for reference. The most significant restrictions for schools occurred between March 2020 and March 2021, when there were widespread school closures. These align well with the 2020-2021 reporting period for LA maintained schools, which begins in April 2020 and ends in March 2021, following the financial year. However, for academies, the reporting year begins in September, hence both 2019/20 and 2020/21 data include periods affected by Covid-19. 

Over the Covid-19 period school finances became relatively healthier in aggregate. Incomes were boosted by coronavirus funding grants provided by the department of ~£1.2bn (£575m for academies and £591m for LA maintained). For academies in particular, revenue funding increases (not related to Covid-19) of £5bn improved finances. In practice, these led to schools building up greater revenue reserves in aggregate. Academy revenue reserves grew by 44.6% (£1.2bn), and LA maintained by 49.8% (£725m) between 2018/19 and 2020/21. This was not driven by just a few schools; 69% of academies increased their reserves from 2018/19 to 2020/21 (71% for LA schools).

Periods of increasing revenue reserves are not unusual. But, although the time series of data are limited, the increase in reserves over Covid-19 (2020-21) does look to be significantly larger than in previous years. As a percentage of average income, average LA maintained reserves were between 6.3-6.6% between 2017-18 – 2019-20. However, in 2020-21, they increased to 8.6% of average income. There’s a similar picture for academies, average reserves generally increased but at a greater rate during Covid-19 than before Covid-19.

For LA maintained schools, revenue reserves increased due to increases in income which were greater than increases in expenditure. Total income per pupil increased by £645 between 2019-20 and 2021-22, primarily driven by increased funds delegated by the LA. Total expenditure per pupil also increased, but by less than income, at £595pp. All phases of education saw increased revenue reserves per pupil, except nurseries, which saw a 13.5% fall in reserves. The 16-plus phase has been omitted from commentary as there were no 16-plus LA maintained schools reporting data in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

Over the Covid-19 period there were changes in the patterns of spending for LA maintained schools, with some expenditure categories increasing, and some decreasing. The largest increases in expenditure in per pupil terms were staffing-related categories e.g. teaching staff, education support staff. The largest reducations were to indirect employee expenses, other insurance premiums and exam fees, although these were small in comparison to the increases.

Academies’ finances improved in the same way as LA maintained schools. Revenue reserves increased per pupil due to income rising by more than expenditure. This occurred across all phases of education. Increases in income were primarily due to increases in revenue funding grants of £5bn between 2018/19-2020/21 (not related to Covid-19). Although coronavirus funding will have assisted academies, that was on a much smaller scale (£0.6bn). Similar to LA maintained schools, staffing was a significant contributor to increases in spending.

 What would have happened without coronavirus grant funding?

Although it is not possible to say exactly how schools would have responded without financial assistance over Covid-19, we can provide some general perspective. Both academies and LA maintained schools income was greater than their expenditure in 2020/21 (2020-21 for LA maintained) even if the coronavirus grants they received are removed (£377m surplus for LA maintained, £649m for academies). Note that we only know this with hindsight and these are aggregate figures - individual schools may have faced considerable financial difficulties without the Covid-19 funding assistance. Further, if only schools at risk of financial difficulty were given additional funding, this could have created a perverse incentive for schools not to hold sufficient revenue reserves.

Explore data and files used in this release

  • View or create your own tables

    View tables that we have built for you, or create your own tables from open data using our table tool

  • Data catalogue

    Browse and download open data files from this release in our data catalogue

  • Data guidance

    Learn more about the data files used in this release using our online guidance

  • Download all data (ZIP)

    Download all data available in this release as a compressed ZIP file

Additional supporting files

All supporting files from this release are listed for individual download below:

  • Academies account returns (xlsx, 19 Mb)

    An excel workbook containing the source data used in this analysis. There are multiple tabs for the academies account returns (AAR) data from 2018/19 to 2020/21. The annual central services data is also included on separate tabs.

  • Consistent financial reporting (xlsx, 28 Mb)

    An excel workbook containing the source data used in this analysis. There are multiple tabs for the consistent financial reporting (CFR) for LA maintained schools from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

LA maintained schools' expenditure 2019-2022

LA maintained schools' expenditure categories

Total expenditure per pupil in LA maintained schools increased by 10.0% from £5,970 to £6,564 per pupil between 2019-20 and 2021-22, an increase of £595pp over the 3-year period. The main drivers of this were increases in teaching staff (£323pp) and education support staff (£123pp). The expenditure category which saw the largest decrease was indirect employee expenses (-£9pp).

At the aggregate level (not taking into account pupil numbers), LA maintained schools’ total expenditure increased by only 1.1% (£271m) between 2019-20 to 2021-22. However, many expenditure categories in 2021-22 remained below their levels from before Covid-19 (19 out of 33 categories).

LA maintained schools expenditure by phase

During the period 2019-20 to 2021-22, PRUs saw the largest increase in per pupil expenditure, at £4,266pp (17.5%), whereas secondary schools saw the smallest, at £477pp (7.8%).

Between 2019-20 and 2021-22, all phases of education saw increased per pupil expenditure. At the aggregate level (not taking into account pupil numbers), secondaries, pupil referral units (PRUs) and nurseries had expenditure levels lower than before Covid-19. However, for these phases the declining expenditure was due to decreasing pupil numbers.

LA maintained schools' income 2019-2022

LA maintained schools' income categories

Overall, total income for LA maintained schools increased by £645pp from £5,963 to £6,609 per pupil between 2019-20 and 2021-22. The main drivers of this were funds delegated by the LA (£497pp), SEN funding (£89pp) and total additional grant for schools (which includes coronavirus-related funding) (£83pp). The income categories which saw the largest decrease were those most affected by school closures and social distancing - income from contributions to visits etc. and total income from facilities and services, falling by £15pp and £13pp respectively.

At the aggregate level, the largest increase by value between 2019-20 and 2021-22 were funds delegated by the LA, at £349m (1.9%). The largest percentage increase was the total additional grant for schools at 39.6% (£251m), which includes coronavirus related grant funding.

LA maintained schools income by phase

All LA maintained school phases saw an increase in per pupil income between 2019-20 to 2021-22. In monetary terms, pupil referral units saw the largest increase, at £5,157pp (21.3%), whereas all-through schools saw the smallest, at £493pp (7.7%).

At an aggregate level, income decreased for nursery and pupil referral units between 2019-20 and 2021-22, by £9.6m and £2.9m respectively. In the same period, there were large increases for all-through at £26m (11.9%) and special schools at £183m (9.4%).

LA maintained schools' revenue reserves 2019-2022

LA maintained schools' revenue reserves by phase

All LA maintained school phases except nursery saw a large increase in per pupil revenue reserves between 2019-20 and 2021-22. Pupil referral units saw the biggest monetary value increase, at £1,747pp (120.4%), and secondaries the largest percentage increase, at 238.4% (£362pp). In contrast, nursery revenue reserves fell by -£128pp (-13.5%).

At the aggregate level, from 2019-20 to 2021-22, all phases except nursery saw large increases in reserves of over 30%. Secondary school reserves more than tripled, increasing from £120m to £370m (208.8%). In total, LA maintained revenue reserves increased by 49.8% (£725m) between 2019-20 and 2021-22.

Academies' expenditure 2018/2021

Academies' expenditure categories

Overall, total expenditure per pupil in academies increased by £448pp from £5,741 to £6,190 between 2018/19 and 2020/21. The largest monetary value increases were: teaching staff (£406pp) and education support staff (£99pp). The largest monetary value decreases were: learning resources (not ICT equipment) (-£73pp) and agency supply teaching staff (-£14pp), although these were relatively small in comparison to the increase in expenditure overall.

At the aggregate level, academies total expenditure rose by 16.7% (£4.1bn) between 2018/19 and 2020/21, mostly driven by a £2.9bn increase (23.6%) in spending on teaching staff. 

Academies expenditure by phase

Between 2018/19 and 2020/21, all academy phases saw an increase in per pupil expenditure. In this period, per pupil expenditure for alternative provision saw the largest increase compared to other phases, increasing by £5,636pp (25.2%). Age 16 plus saw the smallest increase in expenditure per pupil, at £89pp (0.3%).

At the aggregate level (not taking into account pupil numbers), primary and secondary phases saw the largest increases in monetary value, at £2.0bn (24.8%) and £1.6bn (11.5%) respectively, between 2018/19 and 2020/21.

Academies' income 2018/2021

Academies' income categories

Overall, total income per pupil for academies increased by £660pp (11.4%) between 2018/19 and 2020/21. The main drivers of this were increases in pre-16 DFE/EFA revenue grants (£681pp), coronavirus government funding (£109pp) and SEN funding (£62pp). The income categories which saw the largest decreases were non-government and other self-generated income, falling by -£59pp and -£41pp respectively.

At the aggregate level, academies total income rose by 20.6% (£5.1bn) between 2018/19 and 2020/21, mostly driven by increased revenue grant funding (£5bn increase between 2018/19 to 2020/21). Coronavirus funding totalled £575m over the 3-year period. 

Academies income by phase

All academy phases saw an increase in per pupil income between 2018/19 to 2020/21. Alternative provision saw the largest increase, at £7,298pp (31.6%), whereas all-through saw the smallest increase at £498pp (8.3%).

At an aggregate level, income also increased for all phases between 2018/19 to 2020/21. 16 plus schools saw the largest percentage increase over the 3 year period of 44.3%, although this was driven by increasing pupil numbers. Secondary academies had the largest monetary value increase at £2.3bn (16.3%).

Academies' revenue reserves 2018/2021

Academies' revenue reserves by phase

Revenue reserves are often held and accounted for at trust level rather than academy level.  In order to provide an indication of changes in reserves for different types of academies, we have apportioned the centrally held reserves of SATs and MATs across member academies on a per pupil basis, and then aggregated them to get totals for each phase of education. More details can be found within the methodology section.

All academy phases saw an increase in revenue reserves per pupil between 2018/19 to 2020/21. Alternative provision schools had the largest increase in per pupil revenue reserves between 2018/19 to 2020/21, at £2,834pp (86.2%), whereas primary academies saw the smallest, at £144pp (22.9%).

At the aggregate level, revenue reserves increased across all phases by 30% or more between 2018/19 to 2020/21. In this period, secondary academies saw the largest monetary value increase at £647m (48.6%). Academy revenue reserves increased considerably by 44.6% (£1.2bn) between 2018/19 and 2020/21.

Help and support

Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

Ad hoc official statistics

Ad hoc official statistics are one off publications that have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

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

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • 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.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about School finances during the Covid-19 pandemic statistics and data:

Schools and Funding Analysis Division

Email: martyn.rath@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Martyn Rath
Telephone: 0

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

Opening times:
Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays)