Funding ‘nightmare’ means 77% of schools cut jobs

Number of deficits increases as support schools can offer to vulnerable pupils falls

John Roberts

John Roberts

Budget CUTS3

The vast majority of schools have had to cut staff because of the funding crisis, with almost half losing teaching posts, a new survey reveals.

The Association of School and College Leaders said that a poll of business managers shows that 77 per cent of schools have cut support staff, 41 per cent had cut the numbers of teachers and 34 per cent had cut back senior leadership teams

The heads’ union also warned that half of respondents said their school was running with an in-year deficit in the current financial year, and 60 per cent said they will be in deficit in the next financial year.

It also said that the individual support schools can provide to vulnerable pupils is set to worsen over the next 12 months.

One business manager said: “We have been living with this nightmare for too long. When will the government realise that they are damaging the futures of our students?”

The results of the survey of 238 schools in England have been published today at ASCL’s Conference for Business Leaders.

'Chronic' under-investment

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “The message of this survey could not be more stark. Unless the government takes urgent action over the school funding crisis, the vital work that schools do will be increasingly eroded.

“Their ability to provide individual support to students – working with often vulnerable young people to overcome barriers to learning – will be further undermined.

"So too will their capacity to provide mental health support, as well as a full range of enrichment and curriculum options. Hard-won standards are being put at risk by chronic government under-investment.”

The ASCL said this was happening because government spending on education has failed to keep pace with rising costs. 

“As a result, £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets since 2015,” it added.

However the Department for Education said that school budgets have not been cut.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “We do not recognise these figures and they come from a sample of just two per cent of all school business leaders. There are no cuts in funding. In fact, by 2020 core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion, the highest ever and 50% more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 – and we have 15,500 more teachers in our classroom than in 2010.

"We trust schools to manage their own budgets but are offering support to help them get the most out of every pound they spend – and latest figures show that schools hold surpluses of more than £4 billion."

The poll showed that 99 per cent of schools have had to cut budgets, with nearly half (46 per cent) saying this amounted to more than £100,000.

More than half of business leaders questioned (56 per cent) said that cost savings have resulted in reduced individual support for students over the past 12 months. Over the next 12 months, the proportion expecting support to reduce further rises to 65 per cent.

Similarly, around one in four (23 per cent) said that funding pressures have resulted in reduced mental health support over the past 12 months. But this figure rises to 32 per cent for those who expected this to be the case over the next 12 months. 

ASCL said this pattern was the same for enrichment activities, and curriculum options, with more school business leaders expecting reduced provision over the year ahead than over the past 12 months.

The online survey was sent to school business leaders at English state schools in April 2018. Most respondents were from secondary schools (66 per cent), and the rest were from primaries (25 per cent) and all-through schools, and from a mixture of academies, maintained and voluntary-aided schools.

Earlier this year, education secretary Damian Hinds was jeered by some heads at the ASCL annual conference over school funding.





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