New government data has revealed the increasing financial pressures on academies, as their spending exceeded their income by £280 million in 2015-16.
And this gap is growing. In 2015-16, it represented 1.5 per cent of income, up from 1 per cent the year before.
However, the Department for Education document which includes the figures, Income and expenditure in academies in England 2015-16, released today, says: “This does not mean that academies are in debt, as they may have had reserve funds from which these costs were able to be met.”
Multi-academy trusts are more likely than single academy trusts to spend more than they receive.
In 2015-16, just under half of single academy trusts did so – 1,014 out of 2,064. This compares with 61 per cent of multi-academy trusts – 661 out of 1,081.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary designate of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT), said the figures "show that school funding levels are unsustainable".
He added: “NAHT has been campaigning for several months to press the government to fund education fully and fairly. The Treasury needs to deliver additional funding in schools in the autumn budget. Without this, schools cannot continue to deliver the high level of education we all want to see.”
The report also shows how the gap between median income per pupil, and median spending per pupil, has gone from positive in 2011-12 to negative in 2015-15. This was especially true in secondary academies.
Per-pupil spending deficit
In 2011-12, primary per-pupil income outstripped per-pupil spending by £341, but by 2015-16 spending outstripped income by £33.
And for secondary academies, per-pupil income was £279 above per-pupil spending at the start of the same period, but became a £254 deficit at the end of the period.
The report also shows that academies generated just over £1 billion of income themselves.
However, the vast majority of their total £18.93 billion income came from grant funding, representing 94.5 per cent.
The report also says that spending on teaching staff has fallen by 3.2 percentage points since 2011-12, to 50.1 per cent in 2015-16 – although it actually rose by 1.2 percentage points between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
This longer-term drop was offset by increases in the proportion of expenditure on back office functions, education support staff and supply staff.
The report says much of this change occurred between 2011-12 and 2012-13, when back office expenditure rose from 9.5 per cent to 12.6 per cent of all spending.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The transparency we have introduced to school budgets allows parents, teachers and the wider public to ensure that money is being used deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
"Figures like these, coupled with the introduction of our national funding formula, will give us even greater oversight of how much money is going into schools and how it is being spent."