The growing fiscal pressures on schools are revealed in new figures released today that highlight a growing burden of debt as well as shrinking reserves.
Here are some of the key points from the Department for Education’s annual statistics on expenditure by local authorities and schools (excluding academies) in 2016-17.
1. Spending down
Local authority spending on education and children and young people’s services stood at £40.3 billion in 2016-17 – down £0.7 billion from 2015-16.
Spending has fallen by 28 per cent since 2010-11, while the number of local authority maintained schools fell by 25 per cent over this period, according to the report.
2. 1 in 10 schools are in deficit or have a zero balance
There has been a surge in the number of schools failing to balance the books, with 1,461 in deficit in 2016-17. This represents 9.1 per cent – up from 6 per cent in 2015-16 – and is the highest proportion of schools running at a loss since 2010-11.
In addition, 147 schools had a zero revenue balance in 2016-17 – equating to 0.9 per cent of all schools.
3. Shrinking surpluses
In 2016-17, there were 14,498 local authority maintained schools left with a surplus at the end of the financial year. The total surplus was £1.7 billion in 2016-17, a decrease of £384.8 million from the previous year.
“This amounts to 6.4 per cent of their total revenue income, which equates to an average revenue balance in each local authority maintained school of £106,000,” the report stated.
The average surplus per primary fell from £116,000 in 2015-16 to £108,000 in 2016-17, while the average surplus held by secondary schools fell from £392,000 to £373,000.
4. Deficits have increased
The total deficit rose steeply between 2015-16 and 2016-17, going from £119.8 million to £191.6 million – a 60 per cent increase. The average deficit now stands at £131,187 – up from £119,864 in 2015-16.
Secondary schools have fared the worst in recent years, with more than one in four (26.3 per cent) in deficit in 2016-17 – up from 17.8 per cent the previous year. The average deficit has risen by £44,000 – from £372,000 in 2015-16 to £416,000 last year.
The proportion of primary schools in deficit has also risen sharply to 7.1 per cent in 2016-17 – a rise from 4.5 per cent the previous year. The average deficit increased by £11,000 – from £37,000 in 2015-16 to £44,000 last year.
5. Mixed picture in per-pupil spending
The average spend per pupil increased by £65 to £5,417 in 2016-17, compared to the previous year.
But there were wide variations in this spending across different areas of education. Per-pupil spending for children at nursery fell by £232 last year. But it increased for pupils in primary and secondary, with increases of £65 and £24 respectively. Per-pupil spending for special schools also rose, by £156, as well for those in pupil referral units, by £846.
6. Staffing costs account for the majority of expenditure
Three-quarters of the £26.8 billion spent by schools in 2016-17 was spent on salaries and other employee costs.
The largest proportion, £12.4 billion (46.3 per cent) was spent on permanent and supply teaching staff. An additional £4.7 billion (17.4 per cent) went on education support staff, with £3.1 billion (11.5 per cent) spent on other employee costs. This left just £6.7 billion (24.8 per cent) for the other costs of running a school.