Responding to the Spring 2023 budget announcement (15 March 2023) and the lack of any new funding for schools, Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, comments on the significant funding challenges faced by governing boards in schools and trusts.
“NGA is extremely disappointed the Chancellor has failed today to invest further in England’s schools. The Chancellor’s fourth E of education should more rightly have been called early education. While investment in childcare is long overdue and very welcome, it does not tackle the pressures on schools being felt by their leaders and their governing boards.
In particular, a failure to fund an increase in provision for pupils with additional needs and for staff pay will contribute to a chronic shortage of teachers and support staff, with a devastating impact on pupils’ education. We surely all know we need to entice good people to work in schools and provide this essential service for the children, young people and the future of our country.
NGA, along with the rest of the education sector, celebrated the announcement made in the chancellor’s autumn statement that schools’ budgets in England would receive additional funding. While this announcement left schools in a slightly better position, it did not reflect the full investment needed to improve pupil outcomes which will ultimately strengthen both the economy and the country. NGA is therefore deeply disappointed that today’s budget lacked any further movement for funding schools and increasing staff pay.
Real terms per-pupil funding of our schools had declined by 9% in the decade to 2020 and is only recently being restored to the level it was at in 2010. While enabling more schools to stay afloat, the investment required to equip schools and trusts to improve education positively is still lacking in many places. Not enough has been done to move us forward at a time when challenges for schools have grown: the number of children with additional and complex needs is rising, family poverty is rising and other public services are diminishing. We welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to wrap-around care for school pupils, there are many other services children, families and communities need.
Balancing the budget is still a very difficult challenge for a large proportion of boards; one that forces them to make difficult choices over staffing levels, curriculum provision and services that support pupils. This poses a very real risk of a decline in educational standards and to our competitiveness as a global economy.
Pay for teachers and support staff continues to be an urgent issue for governing boards, our members. Sector leading research, including NGA’s own annual governance surveys, highlights a deteriorating picture of recruitment and retention of state school staff.
As those accountable for ensuring their organisations deliver the means of providing a brighter future for their children and young people, governing boards across the country urgently need to see a resolution to the current industrial action so that children do not lose more education. We remain incredibly concerned that a resolution to this seems some way off.
Unfortunately, many of our members feel responsible for something they currently do not have the funds to fix."