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Exclusive: Anger as 30% of schools drop into the red

School governors call for action, warning cuts will harm education

funding, deficits, cuts, governors, nga, tes, survey

Governors have issued a “call to action” on school funding after a major survey found that three-quarters believe financial pressures will harm the quality of education and nearly a third of schools were in the red.

More than 5,000 school and academy governors and trustees took part in the annual survey by Tes and the National Governance Association (NGA).

The results paint a picture of cuts to teacher numbers, larger class sizes, and restrictions on the number of subjects on offer.

The DfE said that “there is more money going into schools than ever before”, and that it was working to reduce cost pressures facing schools.

However, Emma Knights, chief executive of the NGA, issued a “call to action for more money”.

She told Tes: “Most governors are saying our children are being affected by the levels of funding available at our schools.

“The answer is that if we want to avoid children being affected by the funding cuts, then we do need to increase the amount of money available to our state schools.

“As day follows night, if we want to avoid bad effects upon our education then actually more money will be needed over the next couple of years.”

In the survey:

  • 71 per cent said balancing the budget was one of the most important issues facing their school. Recruitment, which came second, was named by 50 per cent;
  • 74 per cent disagreed with the statement that funding pressures can be managed without any adverse impact on the quality of education;
  • 30 per cent said their schools have in-year deficits;
  • Of these, 14 per cent expect their reserves to run out this year, 26 per cent next year, and 34 per cent in two years’ time;
  • Only 15 per cent said they have sufficient funding for pupils with SEND.

The survey painted a particularly bleak picture in secondary schools:

  • 64 per cent of secondary governors said their school had cut the number of support staff;
  • 55 per cent had cut the number of teaching staff;
  • 55 per cent had cut the number of subjects on offer;
  • 42 per cent had increased class sizes;
  • 42 per cent had cut spending on premises;
  • 41 per cent had cut the number of qualifications on offer.

In July, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that real-terms per-pupil schools funding had been cut by 8 per cent since 2010.

Ms Knights said many governors were too worried about their school’s reputation to speak out publicly about funding pressures, but she told Tes that “the written responses [to the survey] make it really clear that an awful lot of governors are angry”.

She added: “Waiting for the next comprehensive spending review does seem, for those schools that have got rapidly reducing reserves, a bit of a time away, particularly as many people have been waiting for a national funding formula for a while.

“There has always been ‘oh, then there will be something, something will happen in a few years’ time which will make it easier’, and that something hasn’t arrived.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There is more money going into schools than ever before.

“School funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion by 2020 – 50 per cent more in real terms per pupil than in 2000 – and high needs funding has risen from £5 billion in 2013 to over £6 billion this year.”

He also highlighted work the DfE is doing to reduce cost pressures and added: “We recently launched the school resource management strategy to help schools reduce the £10 billion non-staffing expenditure last year.

“This will help schools to drive down costs on things like stationery, energy and water bills, as well as supporting them with staff recruitment and retention.

“Alongside this, we have a nationwide network of schools resource management advisers who work with schools to help them use their resources as effectively as possible.”

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