Khulisa responds to the schools and criminal justice related measures set out in the Government’s Spending Review

On Wednesday, the government released its spending review for the next three years with billions of extra funding allocated to schools and prisons. Unfortunately, however, it’s not all great news.


  • The government announced an additional £4.7 billion for the core schools budget in England over the next 3 years. This is an increase of 2.5% in real terms from 2019-2024.
  • The government is tripling investment in schools to create 30,000 special schools places for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Funding for each pupil will be returned to 2010 levels, in an increase of over £1,500 per pupil by 2024-25.
  • There will also be nearly £2 billion in new funding “to help schools to deliver evidence-based approaches to support the most disadvantaged pupils”. This brings up the total support for post-pandemic catchup to £4.7 billion.

While further investment in schools is always welcome, this budget falls far short of what is required to address the scale of the challenge schools face. 

Treasury documents suggest that the 2.5% increase in core school budgets might have to cover future teacher pay rises. This comes at a time when a National Association of Head Teachers snapshot survey found that almost a third of school leaders (31%) reported making cuts to balance their budget in 2020/21 and 35% said they expect they will be forced to make cuts this academic year. Some of the greatest effects of these budget constraints have been on the support available for pupils and on activities that enrich the school day. 

Similarly, while the announcement of a further £1.8 billion in catch up funding is welcome, it is nowhere near the £13-15 billion investment the government is aware is required to close the achievement and wellbeing gap created by the pandemic. As the government’s own adviser, Sir Kevan Collins noted in his resignation letter, “It will not be possible to deliver a successful recovery without significantly greater support than the government has to date indicated it intends to provide.” 

Criminal justice

  • The government announced £150 million a year to continue and expand programmes that prevent crime and keep communities safe.
  • Over £1 billion will go towards increasing efficiency across the court estate - with nearly half of this allocated to the criminal justice system’s recovery from COVID-19.
  • £200 million a year by 2024-25 to improve prison leavers’ access to accommodation, employment support and substance misuse treatment and introduce further measures for early intervention to tackle youth offending.
  • Elsewhere, the government is making a £3.8 billion investment across England & Wales over three years to create 20,000 new prison places.

In the last year, the pandemic has lead to a 47% increase in the Crown Court backlog. The remand population has increased by 22% (the highest annual figure in six years). Outcomes for prisoners have worsened as the delivery of education and other purposeful activities have all but stopped with prisoners said to be living “in conditions which effectively amount to solitary confinement.” 

Despite this picture, the funding allocated to creating new prison places is more than double the combined funding announced for crime prevention, courts and the reintegration of prison leavers into the community. Evidence shows  imprisonment negatively affects many of the factors that prevent reoffending. Family relationships, jobs, and housing all suffer the moment a person goes to prison and the creation of more prison places will not tackle the root causes of crime nor its effects.


We have previously written about the lasting effects the pandemic will have on the wellbeing and prospects of young people in schools and in prison and have warned about the crucial need for immediate action to address these issues before lives are irreversibly changed for the worse. 

We would have liked to have seen much more funding allocated to catch up funding, with announcements focused on improving young people’s social and emotional skills and wellbeing. This is something that Khulisa has called for as part of two sector-wide consortiums led by the Fair Education Alliance and the National Children’s Bureau. These skills are proven to mitigate the effects of trauma, reduce mental health issues, and help young people manage behavioural difficulties. They also promote not only academic attainment but lifelong learning, success and wellbeing. 

We would also have liked to see specific pots of funding aimed at supporting disadvantaged pupils in recognition of the additional challenges they face. These pupils have taken a double hit to their educational prospects with the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting their learning and affecting their mental health at a higher rate than their peers. There is a crucial need to close the skills and wellbeing deficits that make these young people more vulnerable to falling behind their peers. The most effective way of doing this is by building their wellbeing and providing them with the social and emotional skills they need to thrive.  This budget was a missed opportunity to do this.

The criminal justice provisions in this budget also unfortunately represent a commitment to short-term stop gap measures that address issues far too late in the process. What the criminal justice system needs is a long term sustainable strategy that addresses the effects of and root causes of crime.

* indicates required