Election 2024

School funding top of teachers’ election priority list

'Every day we hear from school leaders about how they are struggling to manage'

'Every day we hear from school leaders about how they are struggling to manage'

School funding is the most important education issue for teachers and leaders in the run-up to the general election, a new survey suggests.

But less than 1 per cent of teaching staff listed implementing Rishi Sunak’s advanced British standard qualification as a top issue.

The National Foundation for Educational Research polled 1,282 school teachers and leaders as part of its election “teacher voice omnibus survey”.

Asked which education issues were most important to them when considering their vote, 81 per cent placed school funding in their top three.

The NFER found the second-highest placed issue was the reform of the accountability system/Ofsted, cited by 56 per cent and third was “addressing the teacher recruitment and retention issues” and ensuring sufficient SEND support, both cited by 47 per cent.

However, according to YouGov polling, just 12 per cent of the population more broadly think education is one of the one most important issues facing the country – way below other leading issues like the economy, health and immigration.

Unions re-launched their highly effective School Cuts website last year in anticipation of this year’s election.

In 2017, education became the third biggest issue for voters, behind only Brexit and health. The Conservatives ended up losing their majority.

A poll after the election suggested 750,000 people changed their vote because of concerns about school funding.

Schools face real-terms cuts

Polling suggests Labour will win the election, but whoever prevails on July 4 faces urgent decisions on both school funding and teacher pay.

A decision on what pay rise to award from September will now not be made before polling day, and schools don’t know what funding they will get from September 2025.

Carole Willis
Carole Willis

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, schools’ spending power will be 4 per cent lower in real-terms next year than it was in 2010, despite a pledge by ministers to restore funding.

“Every day we hear from school leaders about how they are struggling to manage the problems identified in NFER’s research,” said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT leaders’ union.

“Children are learning in crumbling classrooms, there isn’t enough support for pupils with special educational needs, leaders are desperately trying to recruit enough teachers, and the shadow of the damaging accountability system hangs over every school in England.”

NFER chief executive Carole Willis said sufficient funding for schools “is of vital importance to a well-functioning education system”.

“This latest polling shows how important school funding is to teachers, and we urge all political parties to prioritise future spending pledges on the education system to improve outcomes for all children and young people in this country.”

Advanced BS not a priority for teachers

Less than 1 per cent of respondents placed “implementing the Advanced British Standard” and “ensuring every pupil is studying maths to age 18” in their top three education issues.

Five per cent of respondents ranked “charging independent schools VAT” – a Labour policy – in their top three priorities.

Primary teachers and leaders were more likely to see Ofsted reform as a priority (60 per cent) than secondary teachers (39 per cent).

Primary staff were also more likely to want to prioritise ensuring SEND support (52 vs 23 per cent), but secondary teachers and leaders were more likely to prioritise addressing recruitment and retention (68 vs 43 per cent).

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the ASCL leaders’ union, said the financial situation was “absolutely desperate”.

“Many schools are having to set in-year deficit budgets because they don’t have enough funding and they will then have to implement cost-cutting measures to balance their books in future years.”

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