Release date: 23/01/2017

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), has described the state of school budgets as ‘close to breaking point’. This follows the release of an NAHT membership survey, involving over a thousand school leaders. 

The survey has found that the number of schools currently in deficit has more than doubled since 2015 (from 8% to 18%). Nearly three quarters (71%) of school leaders are only able balance budgets by “making cuts or dipping in to reserves”. And 72% of school leaders surveyed say their school’s budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

1,102 school leaders responded to the survey with information about their school’s budget for 2016/17.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders union NAHT, said: “School budgets are being pushed even closer to breaking point than before. The number of schools currently in deficit has more than doubled since our 2015 survey, with nearly three quarters of school leaders only able balance their budgets by making cuts or dipping in to reserves. Schools are acutely feeling the impact of an estimated £3bn shortfall in the government’s education budget by 2020 – the first real terms cuts to education spending since the 1990s. 98 per cent of schools are losing funding, at a time when costs are rising and pupil numbers are growing. 72 per cent of school leaders say their budgets will be unsustainable by 2019.

“The government must take urgent action and commit to funding schools sufficiently in the next Budget. It is time to stop viewing education spending as a cost and to start seeing it as an investment in England’s future, and in our children’s.”

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, said:  “School leaders and their governing boards face significant challenges in trying to balance the school (or trust’s) budget. Unlike the NHS we do not have the galvanising images of patients waiting in beds on corridors, but austerity budgets are still having a real and detrimental effect on the welfare and education of young people in England.

“Our own 2016 survey of governors and trustees, which had 5000 respondents, found that just over a quarter of schools had made posts redundant in the last academic year and 60% were predicting they would need to do likewise this year. Sadly, one third of schools had already reduced the offer to pupils in order to make savings.

“The National Governors’ Association has repeatedly called on the chancellor of the exchequer to increase the overall size of the schools’ budget or risk the future prosperity of our country. So again we urge the government, on behalf of governors and trustees, to make additional money available for 2017-18 in his next Budget."

NAHT’s Breaking Point survey 2016/17 also found that:

  • Increases in payroll costs as a result of government policies were cited as schools’ biggest financial pressures. These costs went up in 2015 and have resulted in an increase to school budgets of over 5.5% every year, but there has been no resulting increase in funding from the government.
  • 47% of survey respondents reported the decline of local authority services as a cost pressure on schools, in particular the abolition of the Education Services Grant (ESG) to local authorities which is being passed through to schools. 65% of academy school leaders told NAHT they are concerned about the impact of cuts to ESG.
  • The third most quoted source of financial pressure reported by school leaders was the cost of dealing with the additional needs of pupils, reported by 83% of respondents. NAHT members have expressed serious concerns about the extra pressure they are facing to support the growing number of children with mental health issues.
  • The most commonly reported cost saving was reducing investment in equipment, which 85% of respondents said they were doing.

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More on this:

Blog: financial challenges – we need to remain optimistic

Click here to download the NAHT report Breaking Point: a report of the school funding crisis in 2016/17

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