The poorest schools fell victim to funding cuts un the Conservative Party’s education reforms, a Whitehall spending watchdog has found.

Government efforts to “level up” funding for education have resulted in cuts to the money going to the most deprived schools.

The National Audit Office (NAO), says almost 60% of the most deprived fifth of schools had seen a real terms reduction in Government funding since 2017-18.

While schools in poorer areas continue to receive more support than those in better-off parts of the country, the NAO said the gap is narrowing and questioned whether the formula is leading to a fair allocation of resources.

Cities with high levels of deprivation, such as Nottingham and Birmingham, as well as most London boroughs, have seen cuts while local authorities with relatively low levels of deprivation in the South West, the East Midlands and the South East received increases of around 1%.

The head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said: “The Department for Education has met its objective of making the way it allocates school funding more transparent and consistent. However, it is less clear whether it has met its objective of allocating funding fairly.

“Although more deprived areas and schools continue to receive more per-pupil funding than those that are less deprived, the difference in funding has narrowed.

“The department must evaluate whether this funding model is matching resources to need.”

The findings are potentially embarrassing for Boris Johnson who, shortly after entering Downing Street in July 2019, announced an increase in funding under the formula with the aim of “levelling up education funding and giving all young people the same opportunities to succeed”.

Dorset Echo: The findings are potentially embarrassing for Boris Johnson. (PA)The findings are potentially embarrassing for Boris Johnson. (PA)

The formula, first introduced in 2018-19, brought in minimum per-pupil funding levels, but because most schools with high levels of deprivation were already receiving above the minimum threshold they did not see any increase.

However, under the formula, more than one in three of the least deprived fifth of schools (37.1%) did get a rise. In all, in 2020-21 an additional £266 million was allocated to 3,150 schools – none in the poorest fifth.

The DfE however insisted that the formula is levelling up school funding and “delivering resources where they are needed most”.

A spokesman said: “It ensures that the areas with high proportions of students from disadvantaged backgrounds are receiving the highest levels of funding, providing £6.4 billion in funding for pupils with additional needs in 2021-22.”

The spokesman said the Government is providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade, with an additional £14 billion over the three years.