Education

16.03.18

Over a quarter of secondary schools in deficit

The proportion of local authority maintained secondary schools in deficit has nearly trebled in four years, a new report has revealed.

School funding pressures in England,’ published today by the Education Policy Institute, found that whilst the number of local authority secondary schools in deficit reduced from 14% in 2010-11 to 9% in 2013-14, in the four years up until 2016-17 this expanded to over a quarter of all such schools.

The average deficit for these schools also increased, rising from £292,822 in 2010-11 to £374,990 in 2016-17.

More local authority maintained primary schools are also in deficit now, with an increase from just 4% in 2011-12 to 7% in 2016-17.

The average deficit for local authority maintained primary schools notably increased from £72,042 in 2010-11 to £107,962 in 2016-17.

Over two thirds of local authority maintained secondary schools spent more than their income in 2016-17, with 40% having had their balances decline for at least two years in a row.

Council run primary schools saw a similar pattern, with over 60% spending more than their income in 2016-17, and a quarter having had a falling balance for two years or more.

The report examined the financial impact of the annual 1% pay settlement for school staff for all state-funded mainstream schools and found that the government’s funding allocation through its National Funding Formula for schools (NFF) fails to meet pressures on school budgets produced by this cost alone, despite last July’s announcement of an extra £1.3bn of funding for schools.

Around 40% of schools are unlikely to receive enough additional government funding in 2018-19 to meet these pay pressures, and for 2019-20, this proportion will rise to nearly half of state-funded mainstream schools.

Responding to the report’s findings, Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said that it raises “a number of concerns around the squeeze on council maintained school funding.”

He warned of a possible impact on the quality of education that children receive.

“Council-maintained schools are under significant funding pressures as a result of cuts to local authority budgets, an increase in wages and the additional costs of paying the Apprenticeship Levy.

“The introduction of the National Funding Formula for schools and reforms to high needs funding have exacerbated things further, by making it more difficult for councils to ‘top-up’ high needs funding in response to rising demand.

“Councils are clear that the government should provide additional and ongoing funding to meet this need, otherwise councils may not be able to meet their statutory duties and children with high needs or disabilities could miss out on a mainstream education,” he explained.

He called for the government to launch a fundamental review of high needs funding in order to make sure that the needs of the most vulnerable children can be met.

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