October 2018


  • Renewed optimism
    New terms always begin with a mood of optimism, says Geoff Barton. Even when we worry about results, about looming inspection or about setting achievable budgets and plugging unforeseen staffing gaps, there's something that makes education distinctively upbeat each September. More
  • Cuts - The real impact
    Following his open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton surveys the impact of funding cuts, highlighting examples from around England of how diminished budgets are chipping away at the very fabric of education. More
  • Best of both worlds
    Positioning teaching as a global profession could have a positive impact on the current teacher supply crisis, both at home and abroad, says Dr Fiona Rogers from the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). More
  • Girl power
    Former teachers Charly Young and Becca Dean founded The Girls' Network with a mission to inspire and empower girls from the least-advantaged communities and help them achieve their goals. Here, Charly explains how the network is helping to change the lives of thousands of girls across the country. More
  • A flexible approach
    Could flexible working provide a major boost in helping to retain teachers? Jack Worth, Lead Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), looks at their latest findings and says school leaders and teachers need to work together on this. More
  • Double act
    Having survived their first year as Co-Headteachers of The Holt School in Wokingham, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce reflect on one year in post in this unusual but not completely untested model of headship. More
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Following his open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton surveys the impact of funding cuts, highlighting examples from around England of how diminished budgets are chipping away at the very fabric of education.

Cuts - The real impact

Dear Secretary of State,

As you are aware, because of budget cuts schools have had to make significant reductions to their educational provision. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) states that between 2015-16 and 2017-18 funding per pupil fell by just over 4% in real terms. This probably under-states the effect on real resources.

We welcome the additional funding of £1.3 billion announced last summer but it merely freezes per pupil funding in real terms and does not reverse the cuts. Any further rise in costs – such as partially funded pay awards – would be unaffordable, pushing some institutions into insolvency. Post-16 funding is in an even worse state with the IFS estimating that there is a 15-20% real-terms fall in total spending on sixth forms and further education from 2009-10 to 2019-2020.

Over the past year I have visited members in schools and colleges across the country, and the story is the same everywhere: cuts to the curriculum, to enrichment activities, to student support services, to maintenance budgets and resources.

I am sure you will agree that we owe it to the younger generation to ensure that their life chances are enhanced rather than diminished, and that raising educational standards further is key to our country’s economic wellbeing.

Geoff Barton

East of England

This school in the East of England has some stark examples of the financial choices forced on staff by the pressure on resources. One day they may be weighing up whether to pay for an educational psychologist assessment for a SEN pupil for £400 or employ a teaching assistant for extra hours to support pupils not making sufficient progress; on another, it’s whether to buy new books for the library or fix a leaky roof.

To save money on teaching, the head has instigated more whole-form group teaching at both Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 to cope with reductions in staff and more staff are now teaching outside their specialism. Cuts have been made to department budgets, nurture provision has been reduced leading to more disruption in lessons and outdoor education trips are no longer affordable.

The headteacher is also ‘battling’ with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) for £141,000 for a new boiler after the last one failed and it is reliant on a temporary one installed for hot water only. Paying for a new one without ESFA help would absorb all the school’s tiny cash contingency.

North East

At this school in the North East of England, about 65% of most year groups and 80% of Year 7 qualify for Pupil Premium. Many tend to lack ‘cultural capital’ – the wider experience of life and society that enhances learning – as well as self-confidence. Lack of money (the school has a structural budget deficit) has a direct impact on the school’s ability to provide the kinds of activities that would benefit these pupils.

Staff have tried to find opportunities that are cheap or free but virtually everything has a cost and if it was not for a £10,000 donation, these important activities that enhance learning would have ceased. The donation is excellent news for pupils but, says the head, the fact that running these activities depends on the generosity of one individual is lamentable.

North West

This grammar school is struggling to produce a balanced budget and is facing a £100k+ deficit this year. It has embarked on an expansion programme with an extra form that entered this year, an expansion entirely driven by the need to balance the books.

A senior member of staff says, “We could balance the books by just concentrating on STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] subjects with set sizes of 25+ and to stop teaching many of the arts subjects, languages and classics, but we value providing a wide curriculum. We also value the extra-curricular and sporting opportunities that are available for our pupils and led by many dedicated staff in their own time. All this could go in the pursuit of a balanced budget.”

West Midlands

One school in a deprived area of the West Midlands is struggling to cope with the costs of a private finance initiative (PFI) building, which, while spectacular, is now unaffordable. In 2010, facilities management accounted for about 11% of the school’s budget. By 2017, it was above 17%, increasing the school’s annual outgoings by £451,395. This year, costs for the facilities have risen to about £120,000 per month.

Combined with pay rises, high needs block funding to reflect the escalating number of pupils now requiring Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), and additional pressures, the school’s overall spending has increased in one year by £532,754. For 2018–19, it is facing a £232,000 in-year deficit. Allowing schools to renegotiate PFI contracts would at least afford them greater flexibility to cope with current financial demands, says the head.

Teaching and learning at another school have suffered severely after it had to reduce the number of teaching staff. This has led to:

  • increased class sizes in several subject areas
  • staff morale, which was previously high, deteriorating as workload has increased due to teaching larger groups of pupils
  • difficulties supervising students outside of lessons as effectively due to fewer staff on the duty rota
  • a negative impact on the school’s special needs provision due to a reduction in learning support staff

the school no longer being able to afford to facilitate subjects with a smaller take-up at GCSE, meaning it will be unable to offer these subjects in the future

One voice:

Despite the government’s repeated insistence that it is spending record levels on education, the reality is that it has significantly cut funding per pupil in real terms. The scale of these cuts is a devastating indictment of its commitment to education and has put educational standards in jeopardy.

On behalf of members and young people, ASCL will continue to make the case to the government to ensure that sufficient funding is available for our schools and colleges, and we won’t stop until we are satisfied that our children are receiving the high-quality education they deserve.

We won’t stop until we are satisfied our children are receiving the high-quality education they deserve.

ASCL Regional Information Conferences

Get all the updates you need in one day, about key national issues, including funding, from the ASCL Specialist Team. Find out more and book your place online at www.ascl.org.uk/RIConf

Geoff Barton
ASCL General Secretary