New figures released today by the National Association of Head Teachers show that nearly two thirds of school leaders (64 per cent) are making ‘significant’ cuts or dipping into reserves to stave off deficits. Four in five school leaders (82 per cent) said that budget cuts would have a negative impact on standards.
Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary said: “Flat cash education spending at a time of rising costs is pushing many schools closer to breaking point. Employer costs for national insurance and teachers’ pensions will increase by over 5 % from this school year, adding to already over-stretched budgets. School leaders are being forced to cut spending in all areas, including essential maintenance (50 per cent) and – most worryingly – on teachers and teaching assistants (49 per cent).”
NAHT’s review of 1069 school leaders found that:
- Almost half of school leaders (45 per cent) thought their budget would be untenable on current projections within two years
- Two thirds (67 per cent) said they would not be able to balance the books in four years’ time
- Seven per cent of those surveyed were already running a deficit
Mr Hobby continued: “The money coming into schools is not keeping up with the expenditure they face. As the IFS pointed out recently, the government’s funding commitment equates to the first real terms cut in education spending since the 1990s. Education is an investment in the future, leading eventually to higher productivity, better social outcomes and reduced spending on other public services; cuts to this budget are a false economy.”
Looking for solutions
The government needs to match the overall level of funding to the real cost pressures in schools, including meeting the shortfalls in funding for early years, sixth forms and for services previously provided by local authorities
Turmoil and change exact a high price in education, as schools must change staffing requirements and buy new resources – a period of stability would help manage costs as well as improve performance.
We need a fair national funding formula to ensure that limited funds go where they are most needed but, given the difficulty in cushioning changes, we need a well-planned transition with sufficient time to adjust.
Children eligible for the Pupil Premium should be registered automatically, rather than forcing schools to discover their eligibility. This could increase take up significantly and reduce administrative workload.
We should invest in the further development of school business managers, who can help schools navigate this difficult territory. This includes a genuine freedom for schools to pay business managers at a level commensurate with the leadership pay scales in order to attract and retain their expertise.
The Breaking Point report is available here.