Majority of schools will go into deficit in next 4 years, headteacher survey reveals

Two thirds of school leaders claim they will not be able to balance their books in four years’ time, suggests a survey by the National Association of Head Teachers.

The NAHT questioned more than 1,000 headteachers and found that 64 per cent are making “significant” cuts or dipping into reserves to stave off deficits.

The report, released today, says almost half (49 per cent) would reduce teaching assistants’ hours and 76 per cent would use reserves to balance their budgets.

Four in five school leaders said cuts would have a “negative impact” on standards.

Micon Metcalfe, finance director at south London’s Dunraven School, agrees with the findings, saying “nearly all” the headteachers and business managers she speaks to are having “significant difficulties in setting balanced budgets”.

Despite the protection for 5-16 education, funding has not kept up with cost pressure, and capital, early years and post-16 funding have faced “significant cuts” since 2010.

“The reality is that schools are having to look at reducing their offer, increase class sizes, add to teacher contact time and look for further efficiency savings in back office and premises staffing. Surely education deserves better than this?”

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “Flat cash education spending at a time of rising costs is pushing many schools closer to breaking point.

“The money coming into schools is not keeping up with the expenditure they face. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out recently, the government’s funding commitment equates to the first real
terms cut in education spending since the 1990s.

“Education is an investment in the future…cuts to this budget are a false economy.”

The association says the government should commit to a period of policy stability, automatically register eligible pupil premium children to reduce administrative workload and increase take up, and invest in the “further development” of school business managers by allowing schools to pay them a leadership scale salary.

It also recommends a fair national funding formula.

In a letter to the education select committee, published by the Department for Education (DfE), education secretary Nicky Morgan says the committee will be able examine proposals to make funding fairer in the new year. But no further information will be available until after the spending review later this month.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are protecting the schools budget, which will rise as pupil numbers increase.

“We have made significant progress towards fairer funding for schools, through an additional £390 million allocated to 69 of the least fairly funded areas in the country – the biggest step toward fairer schools funding in 10 years.”

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