Schools face £5.7 billion funding gap, heads warn

Association of School and College Leaders warn DfE massive shortfall cannot be met through efficiencies

ASCL warn that schools ace £5.7bn shortfall

Schools need an extra £5.7 billion to be able to give every child the education that “society expects and children deserve", school leaders have warned today.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) president Richard Sheriff will warn the union’s annual conference today that schools will have to make even deeper cuts or face insolvency unless funding improves.

He will say: “Our model is based on schools being able to deliver a core curriculum in a building that is safe and well maintained, put a qualified teacher in front of every class, and meet necessary pastoral, safeguarding and special educational needs requirements.

“And it results in this simple headline figure. Our schools need £5.7 billion more in 2019-20 than is currently available in the schools budget.”


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Heads are urging the government to meet this figure in the upcoming spending review.

Mr Sheriff said it must be obvious to government that this gap cannot be filled by urging schools to look for efficiencies.

ASCL funding experts have calculated the level of per pupil funding needed to deliver what the union describes as “the basic expectation on schools".

This showed that schools face a shortfall of £5.7 billion in the amount of funding needed by primary and secondary schools in England for 2019-20.

Schools require £40.2 billion compared to the government’s allocation of £34.5 billion. And this does not include shortfalls in high needs funding.

The report, The True Cost of Education, comes at a time when school budgets are under intense pressure.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, school funding per pupil has fallen by 8 per cent in real terms over the past eight years.

And a poll by ASCL of more than 400 heads found that almost all have had to make budget cuts since 2015.

ASCL said that many schools have had to reduce staffing which means larger classes, less one-to-one and small-group support for pupils with additional needs, and make cuts to the curriculum.

Subjects such as creative arts and modern foreign languages are particularly vulnerable because groups tend to be smaller and are therefore difficult to sustain financially.

According to the Department for Education, class sizes have increased since 2015. The percentage of pupils in secondary school classes of more than 30 pupils has risen from 9.6 per cent to 12.1 per cent, which equates to 83,000 more pupils in large classes.

Mr Sheriff added that the ASCL analysis was not being offered as "a constructive assessment for consideration in the forthcoming spending review".

“On the current trajectory, schools will either have to make more unpalatable cuts to the curriculum and the support they provide to pupils, or they will face insolvency," Mr Sheriff said.

"This is not a scenario which is acceptable to anyone – schools, parents, communities or government. Now is the time to work constructively together to provide a realistic settlement which assures the quality of education that the public expects.

“It must be obvious to everyone that a funding gap of £5.7 billion cannot be resolved by trying to squeeze a few more efficiencies out of a system where every cost has already been trimmed. The answer must come from the Treasury in the form of additional investment.”

ASCL’s annual conference takes place in Birmingham today and tomorrow.

The funding model developed by ASCL examines the schools budget for pupils aged 5-16. High needs funding and 16-19 funding are outside the scope of this report but there is separate work being undertaken in these crucial areas.

A survey of 407 secondary school headteachers in England and Wales published today by ASCL found that almost all respondents reported having to make budget cuts since 2015, with 60 per cent saying these cuts were severe.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We know schools face budgeting challenges, which is why we have introduced a wide range of support to help schools reduce costs and get the best value from their resources – from a free-to-use vacancy service to cut the costs of recruiting teachers, to advisers who are providing expert help and support to individual schools that need it.

“School funding in England is at its highest ever level and since 2017 the government has given every local authority in England more money for every pupil in every school – allocating the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded – and in the last year we have also announced an extra £400 million of capital funding for schools from the Treasury.

“We are also aware of the funding pressures faced by local authorities on high needs – that’s why we recently provided the £350 million in revenue and capital funding, on top of increases we had already promised, to help deliver the best support for those in need.”

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