COVID-19 and School Expenditure – What costs can you recover and when will the Government Reimburse?

Jul 14, 2020 | Finance Posts

At various stages since March this year, we have heard that the Government will offer reimbursement to Schools for some of the costs associated with managing the national emergency. 

Yet despite the Government’s guidance schools remain confused about their eligibility for support and how to claim. 

Here’s our guide on what costs can be recovered and when the Government is likely to reimburse.

Main changes to previous guidance

On 24 June, the DfE:

1. Revised the section on the impact of schools’ financial reserves on eligibility for this funding

2. Added details of what support schools can access to cover the loss of self-generated income which is not covered by this fund

3. Confirmed that schools should proceed with a phased wider opening and any measures associated with it within existing resources, as any costs incurred as part of that process cannot be claimed through this fund

Which schools are eligible for financial support?

Your school may be eligible to claim if it falls into one of the following categories:

  • Primary, secondary and all through maintained schools, academies and free schools
  • 16 to 19 academies and maintained schools
  • Maintained special schools, Special academies and free schools
  • Non-maintained special schools
  • Pupil referral units
  • Alternative provision academies and free schools
  • Maintained hospital schools and academies

Under what circumstances can these eligible schools claim?

Costs of specific items could be covered if they are judged necessary to allow your school to provide appropriate support to children attending school during the period of partial closure.

Schools unable to meet these additional costs from existing resources, or those who need to draw on reserves to the extent that the school’s long-term financial sustainability is undermined may be eligible.

You cannot claim if your school expects to end the current financial year* with an accumulated surplus which is higher than that of the previous financial year, i.e. if your reserves have increased.  *September 2019 to August 2020 for academies; April 2020 to March 2021 for maintained schools

Therefore, your school may be eligible for reimbursement if the additional costs associated with COVID-19 will:

  • Reduce the School’s historic surpluses/reserves
  • Increase the size of an historic deficit
  • Prevent the planned repayment of a historic deficit


What costs can be reimbursed?

If you believe your school is in the eligible category having considered the criteria above, you should continue making necessary payments from the school’s budget and record these carefully, both for the purposes of making the claim and for local audit requirements.  The Government considers those areas in which schools are most likely to face additional costs resulting from COVID-19 are:


Increased premises related costs (utilities and resources needed to keep the school open, e.g. hygiene services) associated with keeping schools open during Easter and/or summer half term, over and above those costs that normally apply

Support for free school meals for eligible children not attending school, where those costs are not covered by the national voucher scheme. This includes costs arising before the introduction of the national voucher scheme.

Costs of providing free meals to children for whom the national voucher scheme is inappropriate, e.g. no participating supermarkets locally, or schools provide meals directly (for free school meals provided over Easter and summer half term holidays only where it was required because local supermarkets were not yet part of the national scheme).

Additional cleaning required due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.  This is in line with COVID-19: cleaning of non-healthcare settings, over and above the cost of existing cleaning arrangements.

If a school faces other, extraordinary costs over the period of partial closure not covered by this list. If these cannot be met by existing budgets, they can register the details through the claims process.  If unsure, schools should complete an ESFA enquiry form.

Claims for costs associated with opening schools to more pupils from 1 June.  Additional staff costs, or loss of self-generated income will not be approved through this process.


How can you make a claim?

The ESFA’s online form should be completed by 21 July 2020 for eligible exceptional costs incurred to the time of submission. 

Estimates for costs after this date should not be included. There will be a further opportunity to claim in the autumn for any costs incurred after this date and up to the end of the summer term.   To access the claim form you will need a DfE Sign-in account:

Once in your account, follow the link to the claim form. Enter your DfE Sign-in credentials (for authentication). 

Select your school and complete the sections included.  

You can set up and submit your claim now, and update it at any time up to 21 July.  No changes will be possible after that date.

NOTE: The online form is likely to time out after an hour and forty five minutes. If submitting a claim as a multi-academy trust on behalf of individual academies and you think it may take you longer, you should submit your claim in smaller batches.

There is no save facility on the form, so if your claim does time out before you submit, you will lose any information entered.

With no opportunity to request an extension to your claim or resubmit after the deadline.


How much can your school claim and how will it be paid?

The ESFA will make payment of successful claims directly to academies, or to local authorities to pass onto their schools. 

Reimbursement of eligible claims will be subject to limits as follows:


Mainstream schools

250 pupils or fewer £25,000

251 to 500 pupils £30,000

501 to 1000 pupils £50,000

Over 1000 pupils £75,000

Special schools and alternative provision:

All schools £50,000

*In exceptional circumstances schools may be able to make a case for an increased limit.

Need further help?

Full guidance can also be found on the DfE website here

Alternatively, for further financial help or consultancy for your school, get in touch with one of our specialist team members.