In a press release 11th January 2019 by WorthLess? – Headteachers, representing 25 counties campaigning for fairer funding, have conducted a survey of over 2000 serving head teachers in which they have a “snapshot of of life in England’s schools today”. They make clear the “struggle that thousands of schools up and down the country are facing” and are calling for the DfE to end their “ostrich like approach” and listen to the teaching profession.
Headteacher Survey – The State of our Schools post the National Funding Formula 2019
The following is a statement from Jules White – Coordinator of WorthLess?
“The 7000 headteachers working under the umbrella campaign group ‘Worth Less?’ are unsurprised by the headline findings of the Educational Policy Institute – namely, more and more schools are going in to deficit.
Savage year on year cuts mean that increasing numbers of our schools are faced with the bleak prospect of going into debt. This is not sustainable. Teaching and support services within schools have been cut to the point where there is no excess left. Moreover, schools are also having to pick up the work of other frontline social care and counselling services which have also been stripped bare.
The fact that over 50% of academies and Local Authority schools are now spending more than their income, underlines yet again that schools are being forced in to financial ruin.
The Treasury and Department for Education continue to operate in a parallel universe to the very people who are actually running schools efficiently day by day. This ostrich like approach has to end.
When analysing the EPI’s data, the Department for Education must also avoid the pitfall of suggesting that schools in general have large cash surpluses “lying around”. This is simply inaccurate.
Most surpluses simply come about at the end of a school year when schools have cut their cloth accordingly and reduce staffing, their curricular offer and support services in order to make ends meet. If there is a little cash left over, this is simply used to support our beleaguered budgets in the next financial year.
Recently, academy sponsors such as Lord Harris and Sir Rod Aldridge have made clear that their academies are simply not being funded adequately. The DfE should take note of the fact that this week Sir Rod Aldridge described school funding as “dire”.
Schools are run efficiently and there is little evidence to suggest that there is any waste. This is in stark contrast to the Department for Education itself where policies based on ideological whims account for hundreds of millions of pounds of waste each year.
Eventually, the government will have to listen to reasonable and responsible headteachers who want to see children’s’ education and wellbeing to be seen as an investment for all rather than a cost to be borne. “
Details of the press release are as follows :1
‘WorthLess?’ has gained a unique insight into the state of England’s schools and academies since the introduction of the new National Funding Formula (NFF). We represent over 60 Local Authorities and Boroughs with a reach to several million families.
Our survey of unprecedented size and scope has gained the views of 2000 serving headteachers working in the special, secondary and primary sectors. Headteachers from Cumbria to Suffolk, through to Hampshire and Cornwall and most places in between have provided important quantitative and qualitative data on areas such as school funding, social care and our relationship with the Department for Education.
The headline statistics below provide a powerful update on the struggle that thousands of schools up and down the country are facing. Headteachers have responded in massive numbers and this provides an unvarnished snapshot of life in England’s schools today:
- 87% of headteachers say they have less money in real terms than last year (2017-18)
- 72% of headteachers say that their school’s budget is more likely to go into deficit in 2019-20 compared to previous years
- 94% of headteachers say their schools are now routinely delivering services previously provided by their Local Authority
- 84% say capacity to meet SEND needs are much reduced
- 80% say teachers are making personal financial contributions to support pupils in their schools and the amounts are rising
- 74% of primary school heads say parents contributions are important to supporting school budgets
- 74% of secondary schools have reduced their curricular offer in KS4 and KS5
- 2% of headteachers don’t have trust in what the DfE says about overall school budgets.
“In spite of prolonged rhetoric from the government, headteachers from schools and academies are stating unequivocally that their budgets remain in crisis and that our schools are now being asked to paper over the cracks left by other crucial support services that have been left denuded by cuts to Local Authorities and London Boroughs.
As well as providing core educational services, schools are now being forced to act as an auxiliary emergency service. Far from being asked to do “more with less” as the Department for Education suggests, we are being asked to perform mission impossible.” Jules White.
NOTE: Where does this leave vital careers support needed for young people in England’s schools.
To see the survey in full please click on the link below.
Jules White – coordinator WorthLess?
Some commentary from head teachers are :
- A surplus is an excess of income over expenditure. It is not the correct word to describe how much money a school has at the end of a financial year. The report is powerful: it tells us that most schools, across the whole country, are spending more to operate than they receive; i.e. they have an in-year deficit. It is not surprising that the least well-funded schools are at breaking point.
- For cash flow purposes, such as meeting payroll every month, schools need to have about 10% of annual turnover in their balances at any one time. (The report fails to distinguish properly between ‘balances’ – what is left in the bank at the end of an accounting period – and a ‘surplus’.) The report is powerful: it tells us that the total level of balances across the country is below this critical 10% level. The least well-funded schools will, increasingly, be struggling to manage routine monthly payments.
- Balances are not the same as ‘free reserves’. There may be cash in the bank, but if it can only be spent for a specific (restricted) purpose then the cash is not otherwise available. This includes sums such as Pupil Premium (received in one financial year to be spent in the next). Academy balances also include money that parents have contributed for school trips, up-front payments for school-dinners … the total figure for academy balances includes all these sums, because they are no longer accounted for separately. The report reminds us that many of the least well-funded schools actually rely, for operational cash flow purposes, on funds held for trips and other extra-curricular provision!
- Funding and finance is not black and white and year on year schools are making adjustments to how they provide resource in order to try and balance books. It would be interesting to compare these figures with 10 years ago when local authority services were not pushed back on to schools and pension contribution costs etc. not as high. Even schools that appear to balance or have a small surplus are not ‘financially ok’.
- School budgets are carefully managed each year but becoming harder and harder to make balance. We have had to make significant changes to staffing and even taking catering in-house to try and make some money to ‘prop up’ the budget. More and more schools are having to market and sell things to keep their heads above the water. Heads would be concerned if any small surplus (generated by careful financial management) was removed as they would have no contingency to plan future change. Often a small carry forward is vital for keeping us afloat for the next year. As it is head teachers need a crystal ball to even try and predict what future budget allocations and forecasts will look like. Even the 3 year modellers aren’t worth looking at currently due to the amount of rapid change in budgets and additional resource pressures.
- The point about the uncertainty of budgets is also valid as schools who have small surpluses need to hold onto it in order to not go into deficit in future years. If the surplus pot was used to balance all schools budgets what would happen in future years? Budgets still won’t balance due to the reduced funding and additional pressures.