The Department for Education’s latest accounts for spending in the academies sector make grim reading. Just like in the maintained school sector, more academy trusts are falling into the red. A total of 195 trusts posted a deficit in the last academic year (6.4%) compared to 185 in the previous year (5.9%) – and there is more.
A damning report from the Commons Education Committee published last month highlights the “astonishing disconnect” between the available money and the costs of delivering the system. The MPs behind the report have called for a 10-year plan for education funding focused on what schools – and colleges – are expected to provide and the cost of doing so, and makes the following recommendations:
Implement the full roll-out of the National Funding Formula as soon as feasible.
Increase high needs funding for special educational needs and disabilities to address a projected £1.2 billion deficit.
Extend pupil premium to 16 to 18-year-olds and ensure all eligible students attract pupil premium.
Secure from the Treasury the full amount of estimated pupil premium money that has not been claimed because students did not register for free school meals, and allocate this money to disadvantaged children.
At the heart of the challenge is, of course, money. During the Conservative leadership campaign, Boris Johnson promised an extra £4.6 billion for schools by 2022-23. His team said this amount would keep pace with rising pupil numbers, and return per-pupil funding for schools to 2015 levels. The government has now announced a spending review to “support” the ambition for extra funding for schools – but it will not give schools any extra money before September 2020. So for now things remain unclear.
What we do know is that schools are becoming increasingly empowered to raise funds themselves. In a recent interview Tring Park School’s Director of Development and External Relations Dawn Adam revealed: “We tend to concentrate on the big projects and there is less money around for the smaller things that really make a difference. FundStar allows us to ask for very little from our community and still be able to achieve results. The team are genuinely invested in helping us as a school: they want to understand how we communicate with our potential donors to best help them to help us.”