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Survey shows school budget concerns have reached crisis levels

9 December 2016
The financial pressure facing school leaders has reached record levels as they struggle to balance the books, according to the latest School Leaders’ Survey by Browne Jacobson and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

The survey of over 900 school leaders showed that 94% of school heads and senior managers are unhappy with the government’s funding of schools. Of these three quarters (74%) are very dissatisfied – a rise of 35% compared to 12 months ago and the highest it has been since 2013. As a result, managing a reduced or stagnant budget will be a priority for 95% of all school leaders over the coming year.

Nick MacKenzie, education partner at law firm Browne Jacobson, said:

“It is clear that school leaders up and down the country are facing a real cash crisis and the decision to delay implementation of the new funding formula means many schools are living on a financial knife-edge.

We are already seeing some schools in the country seriously considering shortening the teaching day or going to a four-day week. Others are looking at alternative ways of reducing costs, including cutting back on staff, increasing class sizes, collaborating with other schools to reduce central spends, scaling back curriculum offers, and exploring new and innovative ways to generate income.

The Chancellor’s failure to allocate further resources to schools in his Autumn Statement whilst earmarking £50m to support the expansion of grammar schools may be seen by many school leaders as a real kick in the teeth as they struggle to make ends meet.”

Malcolm Trobe, Interim General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 

“The planned funding formula will hopefully make the funding system fairer and ease some of the pressure on the most poorly funded schools. 
However, it is important to understand that it will not address the fact that the overall level of education funding is not sufficient. 

Schools are facing real-term cuts of at least eight per cent because of extra costs. The situation in 16-19 education is particularly serious because this sector also suffered severe cuts in the last parliament.

Education is a vital investment. It provides the country’s intellectual infrastructure; the knowledge and skills which will enable us to remain globally competitive. We simply must improve funding for schools and colleges to achieve our aspirations for the future.”

The School Leaders’ Survey 2016, which surveyed 941 school leaders in England, also reveals that:
  • 79% of school leaders do not think they will be able to deliver on the government’s target of getting 90% of pupils to take a foreign language to GCSE level. One-third (32%) say they will find it difficult to get over 50% of pupils to even take one language to GCSE
  • around one in three of all school leaders (31%) reported a rise in term-time absence applications since the ground-breaking Platt v Isle of Wight Council judgment by the High Court in May 2016
  • one in five (22%) of school leaders faced significant difficulties in implementing the government’s Prevent Duty with over half of these (58%) citing the use of the term ‘British values’ as the most problematic.

Read the full report here.

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