Three-quarters of secondaries to slash budgets, survey reveals

Stephen Exley

Almost three-quarters of secondary school leaders say cost-cutting will be a major priority in the next 12 months, with almost a third of heads considering "staff restructuring", a new survey has revealed.

The research, carried out by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and law firm Browne Jacobson, found that 55 per cent of all school leaders felt balancing the books would be key in 2015, rising to 71 per cent in secondaries.

This comes despite the government protecting the schools budget for students up to the age of 16 in the face of significant cuts to other public services. ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said schools were feeling the pinch as a result of government reforms, as well as changes to funding for special educational needs (SEN).

Overall, 31 per cent of more than 460 school leaders surveyed said that they were considering a “staff restructuring programme” to meet budget constraints, and a quarter (27 per cent) said they would like to borrow funds from the private sector.

Performance-related pay appears to have had little impact so far, with 80 per cent of respondents saying that student outcomes remained unaffected, and 78 per cent claiming there had been no effect on the recruitment and retention of staff.

Four-fifths (82 per cent) of school leaders said that they would have to divert some funding to their SEN budget as a result of the new national framework.

Browne Jacobson’s education partner Nick MacKenzie said: “The growing financial pressure placed on the shoulders of thousands of school leaders up and down the country is palpable, leading to an environment of growing uncertainty and falling morale.”

Just 21 per cent of school leaders said that they were optimistic about their students' educational prospects for the future. However, this was double the figure reported in last year's survey.

“It is no surprise that funding is a growing concern for school leaders,” said Mr Lightman. “Schools have been at the sharp end of far-reaching change, from the ongoing reforms to the curriculum and examinations, to the overhaul of SEN funding.

“With these reforms comes additional pressure on schools, not only in planning and preparation, but staff training, communication to pupils and parents, and managing the transition processes. All of this costs money.”

 Related stories:

Schools raid maintenance budgets to pay for free lunches – August 2014

School governors add over £1 billion a year to education budget, report finds – May 2014

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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