4 in 5 governors fear for the financial future of their schools

One in ten will set deficit budget or go cap-in-hand to the ESFA to balance income and expenditure, finds NGA survey

One in ten will set deficit budget or go cap-in-hand to the ESFA to balance income and expenditure, finds NGA survey


Fewer than one in five governors believe their school or trust will be financially sustainable in the medium to long term, and almost one in ten will have to set deficit budgets or seek government loans to balance income and spending.

Results of a survey by the National Governance Association, shared exclusively with Schools Week ahead of formal publication, show a steep rise in schools reporting that balancing their budgets is their top challenge.

The NGA surveyed 2,695 governors and trustees using research platform Edurio. It found that only 18 per cent of schools and trusts “perceive themselves as financially sustainable in the medium to long term given their current funding levels”.

Emma Knights
Emma Knights

This is down substantially on last year, when 30 per cent gave the same answer.

Nine per cent said they would be unable to balance income and expenditure without either a licensed deficit from their local authority or a loan from the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Just 6 per cent reported the same issue last year.

The proportion of governors saying they could not balance their budgets without drawing on a surplus from previous years also rose from 20 per cent last year to 32 per cent this year.

NGA chief executive Emma Knights said the findings “vividly illustrate mounting financial pressures the education sector has faced for several years”.

“Shockingly, less than two in ten schools and trust boards express confidence in their long-term financial sustainability.”

The survey was done before government’s approval yesterday of the School Teachers’ Review Body’s recommendation of a 6.5 per cent pay rise for teachers and leaders.

Schools must find 3.5 per cent of this from their own budget, which is slightly better than the 4 per cent schools would have been expected to pay under the previous pay deal that was rejected by unions.

“While we acknowledge the concerns of governing boards regarding budget balancing, we eagerly await the government’s implementation of its commitment to providing schools with additional funding, surpassing previous proposals,” Knights added.

Governors report rise in safeguarding concerns

The survey also asked broader questions that went beyond funding.

Fifty-five per cent of respondents reported a rise in safeguarding concerns in the past year alone, and 71 per cent reported an increase following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The top areas of concern identified were bullying, cyberbullying, neglect, and domestic abuse.

Despite widespread criticism of Ofsted following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, the survey found 60 per cent of governors and trustees supported a graded inspection system. Thirty-four per cent said they opposed it.

The survey also found that satisfaction with government performance among governors is now at a record low of 9 per cent. It was 40 per cent in 2011 and 29 per cent in 2020, though it has dopped near to single-figures before.

It also revealed 47 per cent of governors support the teacher strikes and their underlying principles. Support was particularly strong among governors in their thirties (71 per cent) than those in their sixties (45 per cent).

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