Majority of secondaries spending more than they receive, EPI report shows

New EPI research shows that many schools are still feeling the crushing weight of squeezed funding, flying in the face of the government’s continued claims that school funding is higher than ever

According to new research from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), state school budgets have suffered over the last year – a fact that is, perhaps, a surprise to no-one.

As reported by The Guardian, the EPI looked at accounts from maintained and academy schools for the 2017-18 school year, and found that 60% of maintained secondary schools are spending more than they receive in funding.

The EPI believes that councils should be redistributing surplus money in order to save said schools from dipping into their own reserves.

The think tank also found that the proportion of local authority-led special schools in deficit has doubled since 2014 – now 10%, up from five per cent.

The EPI has said, however, that many schools still had strong bank balances that year, and that the value of surpluses was more than that of the combined deficits.

Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, said the government is continuing to deny blame for causing the funding crisis. “These cuts have made it impossible for many schools to even make ends meet, and there will be a generation of children paying the price for the Conservatives’ failure,” Rayner said.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, agreed with Rayner that the funding issues are the fault of the country’s leadership.

“The increase in the percentage of secondary schools in deficit to over 30% is predictable and a direct consequence of the government’s refusal to adequately fund the education system.

“Cost pressures in the education system and the increase in secondary school pupil numbers mean more secondary schools will face a deficit in future years. There are 326,000 more pupils than in 2015/16 and yet there are 5,000 fewer teachers and 10,700 fewer staff over the same period.

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“The report shows that, despite cuts in educational provision, school finances are continuing to deteriorate. Analysis by the NEU shows that 4,819 schools – that’s a quarter of primary schools (25%) and one in six secondary schools (17%) – received no cash increase or suffered an actual cut to their funding, despite school costs shooting up dramatically.

“More than half of all secondaries and almost half of primaries are being forced to spend more than their income this year, so deficits are going to increase and ‘surpluses’ are going to fall anyway unless something is done about overall funding.

“The Department for Education’s definition of ‘excessive balance’ is a five per ent surplus for secondary schools. This is not ‘excessive’, as any business leader would tell you, and represents less than 10 days of a school’s running costs.

“The report concludes that there isnot enough money in so called ‘excessive balances’ to cover the deficit balances. The report identifies £250m in ‘excessive uncommitted’ balances: this is 0.6% of the Dedicated Schools Grant and therefore a drop in the ocean.

“This is a government that appears to care nothing for the quality of education our children and young people receive. It is time they listened to the head teachers, teachers, school staff, and parents who are saying ‘enough is enough’ and ensure our schools are properly funded.”

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