The extent of cuts to teachers, support staff and building upkeep has been laid bare by a survey of more than 5,300 governors.
The findings show that an overwhelming number of governors – 72 per cent – do not believe that funding pressures can be managed without any adverse impact on the quality of education provided.
The survey, carried out jointly by Tes and the National Governance Association (NGA), was conducted before education secretary Justine Greening announced an extra £1.3 billion for schools over the next two years.
But it shows how schools had already made difficult decisions to cope with real-term reductions in per-pupil funding in recent years.
Almost a third of governors (30 per cent) said their school had already reduced the number of teaching staff because of funding constraints, while 33 per cent said they anticipated doing so in the next two years.
And almost half (47 per cent) have already cut support staff, with a further 36 per cent expecting to do so in the next two years.
Emma Knights, chief executive of the NGA, told Tes she was “worried about what people end up having to do to balance the budget,” and added: “Although they are significant numbers, I don’t look at them and think it’s unexpected. I think it’s symptomatic of the situation that schools and school governors find themselves in.”
And she believes the extra funding for schools that Ms Greening found from elsewhere in the Department for Education’s budget was not enough.
“We are continuing to say you need to find some more money down the back of the Treasury sofa,” she added.
When asked which government policy or action had had most impact on their governing body over the last year, funding dominated.
It was mentioned by 55 per cent of respondents, compared to 16 and 15 per cent for the next highest topics, assessment and academisation respectively.
One governor wrote: “Financial cuts. It is profoundly depressing to see brilliant, life-transforming strategies being whittled away; it evokes disgust when this crime is compounded by government steadfastly maintaining that they are putting more money into schools.”
Another answered: “Not increasing the budget given to schools. We are constantly being told that schools are receiving a record level of funding. It's not enough. The school’s costs are increasing but the funding has not increased in line with the outgoing costs.”
The survey also revealed growing concerns about the effect of cuts to local authority services, such as school improvement, on schools.
In 2015, 46 per cent of governors said this had had an adverse impact. By 2017, that figure had risen to 63 per cent.
When asked which government policy had had the biggest impact on their school, one governor wrote: “The reduction in funding to LAs which has seen the collapse of the school improvement section of the LA and the withdrawal of support services.”