Friday Five: free school meals, cost of living, next government’s inheritance, reading, energy


7th June 2024

1. New government data shows increase in number of pupils eligible for free school meals 

The latest drop of National Statistics data on schools, pupils, and their characteristics has shown that free school meal (FSM) eligibility continues to rise. 2.1 million pupils in English schools, or 24.6%, are now eligible for FSM, up from 23.8% in 2023. Of these 2.1 million pupils, 1.3 million infant pupils, who are not normally eligible for FSM, received them on census day under the Universal Infant FSM policy. Other notable findings are a slight increase in pupils in schools in England and a continuation of class size stability across the board.

The full data is here.

2. Ongoing impact of cost of living crisis on schools explored by the NFER

A new report on the impact of the cost of living crisis on schools by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) reveals the ‘profound impact’ the crisis continues to exert on pupils, schools, and their families. Key findings from the report are:

  • The number of primary school pupils turning up to school hungry or without adequate clothing continues to rise
  • 19% of primary and 17% of secondary teachers report spending their own money to meet pupils’ welfare and pastoral needs, with a quarter of these saying they have spent over £100 already this year
  • Senior leaders continue to report that their school’s financial position is worsening, making additional cuts likely

The full report is here.

3. IFS report evaluates the next government’s educational inheritance

The next government will inherit a mixed educational landscape in England, according to a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS). The report argues that while England performs well relative to OECD countries on attainment, there are significant inequalities throughout the system. These inequalities begin at the start of school: only half of FSM-eligible pupils achieve a good level of development, in comparison to 72% of pupils not eligible for FSM. The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of persistent absenteeism, and the growing number of children on an Education, Health and Care plan also demonstrate the scale of England’s educational inequalities. 

Read the full report here.

4. Decline in number of books children read each year uncovered in new report

A new report from Renaissance has revealed a 4.4% decrease in the number of books read by pupils year-on-year. The UK-wide study, which features data from nearly 6,500 schools and 1.3 million pupils, also found a decline in reading from Year 9 onwards. The books children are seeking out is changing, too: Renaissance argue children are searching for ‘more representative and aspirational role models.’ Books by Marcus Rashford, Maria Isabel Sanchez, and Bryan Patrick Avery were among the most read in the last year.

The full report is here.

5. Energy spend per pupil highest for schools in the North East, new analysis finds

An analysis of school financial data by School Dash has found that energy spend per pupil is notably higher in the North East than the national average. Secondary schools in the North East spent on average £104.30 between 2016 and 2023, around 20% higher than the average for schools in the South East and West. The North East is the region with the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils in the country: over 30% of pupils are eligible for FSM.

More analysis is here.

That’s all for this week! If you found this blog useful, please be sure to share/tweet it and follow @theCfEY, @Barristotle, and @conorcarleton for future editions.