The funding for schools and colleges in England and Wales is never far from the pages of the press and brings rise to extensive debate. The government insists year-on-year that they have addressed the concerns of school and college leaders by increasing funding to meet inflation and the increasing requirements placed on education providers. Indeed, they quote the increase in schools funding from £30.5bn in 2010 to the £43.5bn committed this academic year (Schraer, 2018). We know statistics can be viewed from many perspectives, and the government perspective in March of this year reaffirmed that the core schools budget had been protected in real terms in 2010, with an additional £1.3bn cash injection added for the current and subsequent academic year (Weale, 2019). The government believes that they are providing sufficient funding.
However, there is another side to the budget coin. The Institute for Fiscal Studies believes that school funding has decreased in real terms by 8% since 2009, resulting in a “real-terms freeze” (Schraer, 2018). Many factors contribute to the increase in costs experienced by school and college leaders: for example, increases in pay, national insurance and pension contributions have risen from 3.4% in 2016 to 8.9% in 2019. Added to this, the continuing challenge to recruit skilled and experienced staff in critical subjects, and the issues of retention as more teachers leave the profession, salary costs are increasing (Weale, 2018).
As Geoff Barton points out, insufficient funding for education is leaving leaders in the unenviable position of making difficult decisions on what to cut from their provision: from a myriad of choices, we often find curriculum options reduced, resources cut, staffing minimised. Yet we regularly see government issuing yet another directive to schools and colleges to provide another service or activity: indeed, only last month we read of the accountability the government is considering placing on teachers to prevent and tackle knife crime and serious violence (Allen-Kinross, 2019). Yet, as we so often see, little or no additional funding or support is being offered to enable school leaders to support their staff to fulfill this requirement effectively and efficiently. In short, schools are being stretched in ways never seen before. The impact of this on the profession is measurable: more schools are in deficit than ever; recruiting teachers and school leaders has never been more challenging.
Despite this somewhat bleak picture, leaders in education continue to strive to provide the best possible education for the young people in their care. They seek new and innovative ways to work smarter, more efficiently and increasingly effectively. The National Education Group webinar, Budget Matters, seeks to support school and college leaders by offering ideas that focus upon: reviewing and refining internal practices; developing collaborative practices with external partners, to maximise collective resources and purchasing power; identifying opportunities for additional funding. Some of these ideas will be avenues previously trod by leaders, but it is hoped that webinar viewers will come away having had the opportunity to reflect on their practices, and with at least a handful of new opportunities to consider and explore. Collaboration is critical in the current educational climate, and we are keen to support school and college leaders in these challenging times. We look forward to your feedback and welcome your ideas so that we can add them to our collective knowledge bank and share them with colleagues.
Allen-Kinross, P. (1 April 2019). Teachers could be held accountable for preventing knife crime. Schools Week. Accessed at: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/ teachers-could-be-held-accountable-for-preventing-knife-crime/
Schraer, R. (8 October 2018). School funding: Is the government spending record amounts? BBC News. Accessed at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-45678670
Weale, S. (4 October 2018). Teacher crisis hits London as nearly half quit within five years. The Guardian. Accessed at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/oct/04/teacher-crisis-hits-london-as-nearly-half-quit-within-five-years
Weale, S. (26 March 2019). School funding shortfall of £5.4bn ‘worse than estimated’. The Guardian. Accessed at: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/25/schools-funding-shortfall-of-54bn-worse-than-estimated