Impact of school funding crisis is set to deepen, says ASCL

According to a survey by ASCL the impact of the education funding crisis is set to deepen

The impact of the school funding crisis on the level of individual support that schools are able to offer their students is set to worsen over the next 12 months, according to a survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

More than half (56%) of school business leaders say cost savings have resulted in reduced individual support for students over the past 12 months, but over the next 12 months this rises to 65% who expect that cost savings will result in reduced support.

Similarly, 23% say that funding pressures have resulted in reduced mental health support over the past 12 months, but this figure rises to 32% who expect this to be the case over the next 12 months.

The pattern is the same for enrichment activities, and curriculum options, with more school business leaders expecting reduced provision over the year ahead than over the past 12 months.

The results of the survey of 238 business leaders of schools in England are being released today (Thursday 17 May) at ASCL’s Conference for Business Leaders, which is being held in Nottingham.

The findings reflect widespread cutbacks in staffing levels. Thirty-four per cent said the senior leadership team had been reduced, 41% said the number of teachers had been cut, and 77% said the number of support staff had been reduced over the past 12 months. More staffing cutbacks will take place over the next 12 months.

This is happening because government spending on education has failed to keep pace with rising costs. As a result £2.8bn has been cut from school budgets since 2015.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The message of this survey could not be more stark. Unless the government takes urgent action over the school funding crisis the vital work that schools do will be increasingly eroded.

“Their ability to provide individual support to students – working with often vulnerable young people to overcome barriers to learning – will be further undermined. So too will their capacity to provide mental health support, as well as a full range of enrichment and curriculum options.

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“Hard-won standards are being put at risk by chronic government under-investment.”

One school business leader said: “We’ve run out of rabbits to pull from hats. Every contract and cost has been reviewed, every ounce of surplus fat removed and every stream streamlined. We are at the point now where if funding does not rise in real terms education is going to suffer.”

Another said: “We have been living with this nightmare for too long. When will the government realise that they are damaging the futures of our students?”

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Nearly all respondents (99%) have had to make cost savings over the past 12 months, with nearly half (46%) saying this amounted to over £100,000.
  • Half said their school was running with an in-year deficit in the current financial year, and 60% said they will be in deficit in the next financial year.
  • More than nine in 10 (92%) said they will have to make cost savings over the next 12 months, with 40% saying this will amount to more than £100,000.
  • Twenty-one per cent said the senior leadership team will be reduced, 43% said there will be cuts to the number of teachers, and 64% said support staff numbers will be reduced.

The online survey was sent to school business leaders at English state schools in April 2018. Most respondents are from secondary schools (66%), and the rest from primaries (25%) and all-through schools, and from a mixture of academies, maintained and voluntary-aided schools.

All percentages quoted in this press release have been rounded to the nearest whole number. The full results are available here.

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