New poll reveals full impact of school funding crisis

By agency reporter
March 25, 2018

School leaders’ union NAHT today releases a new poll showing the full impact of the funding crisis hitting schools, including an indication that any reserves that schools may have held are all but exhausted.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said, “This poll adds further weight to the argument that school budgets are at absolute breaking point. No school is immune. Primary and Secondary, Academy and Local Authority, mainstream and specialist; the entire state-funded school system is rapidly heading towards insolvency. And as this research shows, the cuts are beginning to have an impact on children and education.

“Horrifyingly, 65 per cent of respondents said they ‘strongly agreed’ that cut backs have already had a negative impact on the performance of their school. And only 8 per cent of school leaders said that they did not foresee a year where they would have an untenable deficit.

“The government has tried to blame schools by suggesting that they are sitting on surpluses. Our data shows that whilst 76 per cent of schools were able to dip into reserves in 2015, this year it is only 41 per cent. Any rainy day money schools might have had has already been spent. The government’s only option now is to find more money for schools.”

NAHT’s Breaking Point 2018 poll of 589 school leaders in England and Wales showed that:

  • More than a fifth (21 per cent) of respondents said that their budget for 2017/18 was in deficit; a 13 percentage point increase since 2015
  • Only 8 per cent of respondents said that they did not foresee a year where they would have an untenable deficit
  • When asked which one factor was causing the greatest financial pressure on schools, ‘additional needs of some children’ was the key factor cited by 28 per cent of respondents
  • More than four fifths (86 per cent) of respondents have reduced the hours or numbers of teaching assistants to make their 2017/18 budget balance. This figure was 49 per cent in 2015
  • More than a third (37 per cent) of respondents said they have had to reduce the number or hours of teaching staff
  • Almost three-quarters (71 per cent) are expecting to have to set a deficit budget in the next financial year and almost four fifths (79 per cent) are expecting a deficit budget for the following year 2019/20
  • Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of respondents said that they strongly agreed that the reductions they have had to make have resulted in a negative impact on the performance of the school

James Bowen, director of NAHT Edge, said: “The financial pressures schools are facing affect every child, but we are increasingly concerned about the disproportionate impact on children with additional needs. The numbers of schools having to make redundancies or reduce the hours of teaching assistants has dramatically increased – this a huge worry given the increasing complexity of many children’s needs.

“86 per cent of schools have had to cut the hours or numbers of teaching assistants this year – up from 49 per cent in 2015. Without the vital support that teaching assistants provide, some of the most vulnerable children are losing out on the support they need. In addition, teachers are forced to juggle increased responsibilities for more children, splitting their time between teaching and learning, pastoral care, and leadership duties. All while seeing their own numbers reduced by more than a third.

“There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for teachers to do everything – as the latest figures on workload and retention rates show.”

Paul Whiteman continued: “In the last General Election campaign, school funding was a key issue on the doorstep. It is clear that parents will not tolerate school standards slipping and that they are concerned for their children’s future. These figures ought to be ringing serious alarm bells with the government.”



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