ASCL survey reveals scale of education funding crisis

04 March 2016

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

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 per cent have had to cut resources such as IT equipment or books.

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

The financial situation is set to worsen over the next 12 months with almost 90 per cent expecting it to be critical, very serious or serious. Cutbacks are likely be more severe with half set to make redundancies.

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

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.

Modelling by ASCL 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 today’s ASCL Annual Conference in Birmingham, attended by around 1,000 school and college leaders, ASCL President Allan Foulds will call for greater investment in education.

He will warn of the threat posed by funding cuts combined with severe teacher shortages. “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 will say.

“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.

“No amount of hard work and dedication in schools and colleges can make up for the lack of them and it is wishful thinking to believe otherwise.

“This is not us talking down the education system. Far from it. We are immensely proud of what has been achieved. Our point is to make a mature and heartfelt plea for greater investment in schools and colleges.”

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.”

One headteacher, in another area, said: “The position of my school is absolutely critical.  We are full in every year group and have a sky-high pupil teacher ratio, but we cannot make ends meet.

“I am certain that lots of schools are in a worse position than us but are too afraid to say so, in case they are held as being to blame or lose the support of their parents. Schools can't keep paying constantly increasing costs with constantly reducing money.  It is simply impossible."

ASCL survey results – January 2016

Q1. Over the past 12 months have you received enough funding to meet the essential needs of your school/ college in terms of having sufficient resources to deliver high-quality education?
Yes: 15.42% (136 responses)
No: 84.58% (746)

Total responses: 882

Q2. Have you had to take any of the following actions in the last 12 months?
Redundancies: 38.38% (332)
Non-replacement of support staff: 80.35% (695)
Non-replacement of teaching staff: 69.83% (604)
Cutting the number of senior leadership posts: 46.24% (400)
Cuts in resources, such as IT equipment or books: 69.48% (601)
Reducing the number of courses on offer: 65.90% (570)
Increasing class sizes: 63.93% (553)
Reducing the budget for professional teacher development: 58.96% (510)
Other: 15.38% (133)

Total responses: 865

Q3. How serious is your financial situation?
Critical: 17.63% (156)
Very serious: 30.40% (269)
Serious: 22.03% (195)
Worrying but coping at the moment: 28.25% (250)
Fine: 1.69% (15)

Total responses: 885

Q4. Have financial pressures had a detrimental effect on the education you are able to provide?
Yes: 77.13% (678)
No: 22.87% (201)

Total responses: 879

Q5. How serious do you think the situation will be over the next 12 months?
Critical: 33.52% (296)
Very serious: 35.79% (316)
Serious: 20.16% (178)
Worrying but will cope: 10.08% (89)
Fine: 0.45% (4)

Total responses: 883

Q6. Do you expect you will have to take any of the following actions?
Redundancies: 49.89% (434)
Non-replacement of support staff: 76.21% (663)
Non-replacement of teaching staff: 71.49% (622)
Cutting the number of senior leadership posts: 39.77% (346)
Cuts in resources, such as IT equipment or books 73.33% (638)
Reducing the number of courses on offer: 70.34% (612)
Increasing class sizes: 75.40% (656)
Reducing the budget for professional teacher development: 60.57% (527)
Other budget cuts: 20.46% (178)

Total responses: 870

Q7. What is your type of school/ college?
Maintained: 37.29% (330)
Academy: 57.40% (508)
College: 1.24% (11)
Other: 4.07% (36)

Total responses: 885

Q8. What is your job title?
Head or principal: 47.57% (421)
Deputy head/ principal: 18.19% (161)
Assistant head/ principal: 12.43% (110)
Business leader/ manager: 18.53% (164)
Other: 3.28% (29)

Total responses: 885