1 in 10 secondaries cutting hours due to funding crisis

EXCLUSIVE: Tes and National Governance Association survey also finds a third of schools have been forced to cut teachers and half have reduced support staff

Catherine Lough


Nearly one in 10 secondaries have reduced school opening hours or are planning to reduce opening hours because of funding cuts, new research suggests. 

Tes and the National Governance Association polled 5,923 school governors, and 4.2 per cent of secondary respondents said their school had cut opening hours because of a lack of funding, while 5 per cent said they anticipated doing this in the next two years. 

Related: Javid promises more money for schools

News: DfE planning teacher pay rises and behaviour crackdown

Background: DfE warning against cutting school day ‘disingenuous’

More than three-quarters of all governors (76.1 per cent) were not confident of managing funding pressures without damaging the quality of education in their school, an increase from 74 per cent of those surveyed in 2018.

And only half – 50 per cent – of those surveyed thought they would be able to balance their budget next year. Schools were more likely to be drawing on savings to cover costs this year, with a third (32 per cent) of respondents using reserves, an increase of 2 per cent since 2018.

The research also found that:

  • A third (32 per cent) said their school had reduced teaching staff because of cuts
  • Half (52 per cent) said their school had cut support staff
  • A quarter said their school had asked for parental contributions
  • 78 per cent said their school was not funded to meet SEND needs 
  • 78 per cent had a negative view of government performance on education, an increase from 75 per cent in 2018

“The government must stop pretending that schools are being adequately financed and stop imagining that a little bit of money to spend on 'extras' addresses the systematic under funding of the last ten years," one school governor said. 

"Schools have used up every last bit of resource and that is affecting recruitment, retention and pupil outcomes.”

The news comes with the school funding crisis continuing to rise up the political agenda. Earlier this week, a leaked briefing document from the Department for Education was said to include a £2.8 billion school funding boost and plans to increase teachers’ pay, with starting salaries rising to £30,000.

The governors research found that “balancing the budget” was the top issue facing governors, with 72.5 per cent of governors stating this was one of the most important factors affecting their school.

Schools are also under increasing pressure to step in to support families affected by austerity measures, the research found. The numbers providing food banks or meals outside of term time to address holiday hunger, or washing pupils’ school uniforms, has increased.

Although the proportion of schools offering financial assistance to pupils, such as emergency loans or help with purchasing uniforms, had fallen, the survey found this was not evidence of a lack of need but due to funding constraints.

And schools are less able to offer pastoral support to vulnerable pupils. The number of respondents reporting they had reduced pastoral care because of funding cuts rose from 12 per cent in 2018 to 15.5 per cent this year, while six in 10 governors – 60.5 per cent – said they lacked funds to support the needs of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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