Despite government assurances that school funding is at record levels, headteachers are reporting that they are having to dip into their reserves to meet basic needs and spending more than they receive. According to a recent article in The Guardian – A third of maintained secondary schools in England are in the red. Shocking news heaping more misery on an increasingly bewildered sector.
Three out of ten maintained secondary schools had budget deficits of nearly £500,000 last year according to figures on local authority spending. 30% had a shortfall in 2017-18 compared with just 11% five years earlier despite government claims that education funding is at its highest level on record.
The latest figures only cover those schools which have not converted to academy status. Most state secondary schools are now academies. Comparable figures for individual schools run by academy trusts were not available, although the DfE’s figures for 2016-17 showed the number of trusts in deficit rising to 5.9%.
The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has said that the proportion of Local Authority special schools in deficit has doubled from 5 to 10% since 2014. However, it is pastoral care, arts and schemes that benefit the most vulnerable children in schools and at a community levels most under threat with many schemes particularly in poorer areas being cut.
The EPI has also reported that although school budgets had worsened in the space of a year, many still had strong bank balances and that overall the value of surpluses exceeded that of the combined deficits.
In 2017-18, local authority school deficits totalled £233 million while the total of surplus balances was £1.8 billion of which £580 million met the DfE’s “excessive balance” definition.
“In fact, by the Department for Education’s definition, nearly a quarter of a billion pounds is in accounts deemed excessive and uncommitted to any specific expenditure. The challenge for government, local authorities and school leaders is whether that money should now be redistributed,” said Jon Andrews, the report’s author and deputy head of research at the EPI.
It would certainly make sense to have a needs-based redistribution?
(Source- The Guardian)