Ahead of the publication of School governance in 2018 – an annual survey by NGA and Tes tomorrow (18 September), it will come as a surprise to few that 71% respondents said funding was the biggest issue facing the school they govern.
Just one in five governors and trustees responding to the survey are confident that they can manage budget constraints without compromising the quality of education. Once again, the damage caused by cuts was made clear, with 47% of respondents having cut support staff and 30% having reduced the number of teaching staff in response to funding pressures.
Funding pressures are affecting every stage of education. Only a fifth of those governing nursery schools or schools with a nursery class said that their early years funding is sufficient to meet the needs of pupils. For sixth forms, funding pressures are increasingly influencing curriculum with 67% of those governing sixth forms saying that they have had to reduce the number of subjects on offer, up from 57% saying the same in 2017. Only 15% of respondents said that high needs funding is sufficient to meet the needs of pupils with special education needs.
With the Department for Education promoting the use of its financial efficiency tools in response to criticisms on funding, the use of which is encouraged by organisations including the NGA, over half of those governors and trustees said that the governing board or staff in the school had already used the tools. 72% of respondents said that cuts to locally authority funding, including children’s services, have had an adverse impact on the school too.
When asked about the single thing they want the government to do in the next year, 48% of respondents said increase funding. A key recommendation of the report is that the Department of Education should urgently address the insufficiency of school funding by increasing the overall school budget in the next spending review to protect children’s futures and ensure pupils get the education they deserve.
Almost a third of governors and trustees surveyed said that their school is currently drawing on reserves, with only half saying that they are currently balancing income and expenditure. Of those drawing on reserves, three-quarters said their reserves would be exhausted within the next two years.
A selection of the feedback received from respondents to the survey:
“Increase budgets so they at least meet the increases we are seeing in real terms. Support staff are just as important as teachers and we are having to not replace because of the cuts to our budget.”
“Allocate schools more budget to be able to adapt to the ever changing curriculum and needs of the society within our education system, to meet the needs of individual children and staff, and to continue to be able to maintain buildings.”
“Funding remains the main issue, with the situation deteriorating rapidly. The Government should at least admit that there is a problem, and should act to tackle it.”
“Be realistic that if the objective is to provide first class education for our children, it will only come with proper funding.”
“Consider the real impact of funding policy across authorities. There is too much inequality.”
“Stop saying [the DfE] is putting record amounts of money into education when funding per pupil is down. It gives the public the wrong impression of what schools should be able to achieve with the money they are given.”
Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, said “Funding, one of a governing board’s three chief responsibilities, is providing some very tough challenges. It is deeply worrying that only one in five respondents were confident that funding pressures could be managed without any adverse impact on the quality of education provided to children and young people. This survey provides evidence, from the people who sign off school budgets, that schools are increasingly unable to provide a good quality of education because of funding. If we want to avoid negative effects on pupils, then simply, we need to increase the amount of money available to state funded schools overall.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This survey provides further evidence of the impact of the school funding crisis. The government should take particular note of the finding that only one in five governors and trustees are confident that they can manage budget constraints without compromising the quality of education. This response reflects our concern that hard-won educational standards are being put at risk by real-terms cuts to school funding. Ministers must recognise the urgency of the situation and improve the level of investment before it is too late.”