£5.4 billion budget shortfall: how can schools make up the lost ground?

The School Cuts coalition, which includes the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the NAHT headteachers’ union, the NEU teaching union, GMB, Unison and Unite, has reported that there has been a £5.4 billion shortfall in school budgets over the past three years affecting 91% of schools in England.

They said that their latest analysis represented the most comprehensive examination of school funding figures, bringing together the schools block allocation, the pupil premium and sixth-form funding. According to the coalition, these funding streams have failed to keep pace with school costs, leaving schools with this shortfall.

At the same time, more stories are emerging of the impact of squeezed revenue funding. For example, a survey of almost 3,500 teachers by Teacher Tapp found that one in five teachers work in schools that have buckets set up to catch drips when it rains and over a quarter do not believe their schools are in a good state of repair. The latest forecasts show that the Department for Education’s capital budget will decrease from £5.6 billion in 2018-19 to £5.1 billion in 2019-20, and then to £4.5 billion in 2020-21, suggesting that things will get worse.

Now, more than 1,000 local authority councillors have signed a letter urging the government to increase school funding due to growing budget deficits, cuts in teaching staff, reductions in some subject areas and poorer education. The letter says that almost a third of all council-run secondary schools and eight in ten academies are in deficit. Councillors have urged ministers to reverse the school funding cuts implemented since 2010 and better fund SEND provision.

Education secretary Damian Hinds has committed to pushing for “the right level of funding” in the forthcoming spending review and the overwhelming feeling from the sector is this can only be solved by new money from the Treasury. Pockets of additional funding have been announced over the last year or so, but these are largely sporadic and unpredictable; what is needed is a longer term funding settlement to give schools greater confidence to plan ahead.

Clearly understanding what funding they will receive in the long run will also enable schools to take a more strategic and co-ordinated approach to other forms of income generation, including fundraising, which are currently piecemeal.

The FundStar team

12th April 2019

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