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ASCL reveals scale of education funding crisis

A survey of school leaders has confirmed that financial pressures in schools have affected education quality

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 07, 2016 | Law, finance, HR

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has called for greater investment in education as a survey shows the damage being caused by funding cuts. 

The survey, conducted in January, received nearly 900 responses. The majority of respondents were from academy and maintained secondary schools. 

More than three quarters of those surveyed felt that financial pressures have had a detrimental effect on the education they are able to provide.

Nearly two thirds have had to cut the number of courses on offer over the past 12 months and a similar number have had to increase class sizes, while 69% have had to cut resources such as IT equipment or books.

Almost four in ten respondents have made redundancies and 70% have made savings through non-replacement of teachers who have left. Other actions have included reducing the number of senior leadership posts (46%) and non-replacement of support staff who have left (80%).

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that schools in England are having to make real-terms cuts of around eight per cent during the course of this parliament because of extra costs that have to be met from existing budgets. The situation is even worse in 16-19 education, which suffered large cuts in the last parliament.

ASCL modelling shows that an 11 to 18 school with about 1,700 pupils and a budget of £7.9 million would have to make cuts of £531,000 in 2016/17 – equivalent to more than 10 teachers.

In a speech opening the ASCL Annual Conference in Birmingham, attended by around 1,000 school and college leaders, ASCL President Allan Foulds called for greater investment in education.

“These problems are so acute that there is a serious danger we will not be able maintain current standards, let alone raise them further,” he said.

“Geoffrey Howe once made a famous observation about being sent to the crease only to find that your bat has been broken by the team captain. The situation with teacher supply and funding is now so serious that we are in danger of finding we are out there with no bat at all.

“The Government is rightly committed to raising standards. Nothing is more important to school and college leaders.

“But it is simply asking the impossible to demand that schools and colleges take the next big leap forward in raising the bar without providing the essential materials with which to achieve that ambition.

“There is a simple correlation between input and output in any process. The education system requires the raw materials of sufficient funding and teacher supply to achieve the outcomes we all want to see.”

Peter Woodman, chair of West Sussex Secondary Headteachers’ Association and headteacher of The Weald School in Billingshurst, said: “As one of the lowest funded authorities in the country, virtually all secondary schools in West Sussex are struggling to present balanced budgets this year. The impact of increased employer contributions to National Insurance and pensions have had a crippling effect. 

“Colleagues are looking at nightmare scenarios in a few years’ time. We have the added pressure that with teacher recruitment in the crisis that we find, our schools do not have the funds to compete with other more well-funded authorities. A perfect storm is developing.”    

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