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School leaders survey 2015

20 November 2015

Putting aside the detail of the findings for one moment, one of the very interesting aspects of this year’s survey is that, unlike in previous years, there is far less divergence of opinions between academy and maintained school respondents. This perhaps reflects the fact that we are now entering into the sixth year of the expanded academies programme and all schools are feeling the continued effects of the changing accountability measures, frailties of the examination system as well as financial restraint in the public sector. 

Two clear themes struck me when looking at the survey findings. The Government’s education programme heavily relies on school leaders and it is clear more needs to be done to support current leaders as well as identifying and developing the leaders of the future.With continuation of the academy programme at pace and the emergence of more local school groups this will be a critical part of succession planning at both a local and national level.

This Government also needs to follow through on its manifesto commitments on schools funding. The Conservative manifesto made a commitment to provide‘proper funding’ to every school and to ‘make schools funding fairer’. However, Nicky Morgan has said the new funding formula will not be ready until September 2017 at the very earliest. Many will remember the last Education Secretary of State started consultation on fair funding in 2012 but progress soon stalled.

Whilst 2017 will feel too late for many, it is important to ensure that this time real progress will be delivered for our worst funded schools and their pupils. The Prime Minister’s announcement in July this year that the additional £390m previously confirmed for 2015-16 would be base-lined in budgets for future years was a welcome start. Any additional measures the Chancellor can facilitate in the comprehensive spending review to help narrow the gap pending the full implementation of fair funding will be very welcome.

Click here to read the survey online

Click here to download a copy of the survey 

Key findings

Staffing cuts

  • Over half of schools (55%) are looking to reduce their overall staffing levels in the next 12 months, with 71% citing reduced funding and 62% budget pressures as the reason.
  • Of schools looking to make cuts, more than three-quarters (78%) will reduce the number of teaching positions with a similar number making cuts to support staff; 43% are planning to reduce leadership posts.
  • Six out of ten leaders (61%) are looking to reduce staffing levels by between 2-5% with one in four (26%) seeking cuts of between 6-10% over the next 12 months.


  • Managing a reduced or stagnant budget will be a priority for 90% of school leaders over the next year.
  • In addition, more than 90% of school leaders say that implementing the curriculum changes coming on stream is a priority this year.
  • Fewer than one in ten leaders view joining a formal school group, becoming or joining a teaching school alliance or creating or expanding a school group as a major priority.
Leadership concerns
  • More than one-third of school leaders (36%) are planning to reduce the overall size of their leadership teams in the next 12 months.
  • More than half (52%) questioned whether Regional School Commissioners (RSCs) were sufficiently resourced to intervene and implement improvement measures in schools.
  • Similar levels of concerns surfaced when it came to assessing the pool of future leaders with 43% of respondents feeling negative about whether there was a sufficient pipeline of potential leaders coming through the system at a local level.
Government policy
  • Three-quarters of leaders (72%) felt negative when asked about the impact the Government’s education policy is likely to have on their schools compared to 12 months ago. Fewer than one in ten school leaders were positive about Government policies.  
  • 92% of school leaders were dissatisfied with the Government’s funding of schools of which 60% were very dissatisfied.
  • Half of all school leaders felt negative when asked about the educational prospects of their pupils compared to 12 months ago as a result of Government policies.
Prevent in the classroom
  • A significant number of school leaders have expressed concerns about discharging the new legal duty placed upon them under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 with one in five school leaders (21%) identifying a need for greater training to assist staff.

About the research

Research for the school leaders survey 2015 was carried out between 14 September and 28 September 2015.

1333 school leaders took part in the survey, of which 45% were head teachers and principals. The remainder  included CEOs, MDs, deputy CEOs, deputy MDs and principals, assistant principals, finance directors and business managers. 38% of schools that took part were maintained and 53% academies. Of the total, 76% of all schools taking part were secondary and 8% primary, with the remainder including all-through schools and special schools. 

All percentages quoted in this report have been rounded to whole numbers. Where the results do not add up to 100%, this may be due to rounding.

Browne Jacobson and ASCL are grateful to all the school leaders and senior managers, both members and non-members of ASCL, who have generously participated in this study.

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