Inadequate School Funding
National concern about inadequate school funding has increased this year with the news of even more externally enforced costs added to already tight budgets. Recent reports from organisations ranging from the Headteacher’s ‘Worth Less?’ group to the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Education Policy Institute all confirm that funding for the nation’s schools is inadequate. The number of schools setting deficit budgets has increased, as has the number of schools setting in-year deficits and therefore spending their reserves, yet the message coming from central government is that all schools need to do is find ways to save money to balance the books. This is simply not true.
The UK Statistics Authority, a Government department, has reprimanded the DfE for their misleading use of statistics concerning school funding when they included the money spent by parents on private education and the money invested in university student loans in their claim that ‘more money than ever before is being invested in education’. Unfortunately, misleading information continues to be included in press releases confusing many observers and making anyone who does not have first-hand knowledge of the situation wonder what is actually true. Many schools will not be comfortable sharing financial information, which is why we are writing to you today.
St Anne’s is an outstanding, oversubscribed school with waiting lists to join all year groups. We have been confirmed as the highest performing school in the city and the 2nd highest performing school in the Southampton, Hampshire and Portsmouth area. We have repeatedly been congratulated on our excellent financial management having worked with the government’s new School Resources Management Adviser scheme and professional auditors. So, we are confident in sharing with you all that our students, staff and the entire St Anne’s family have achieved all of this despite rapidly reducing funding and spiralling externally enforced costs.
The following bullet points will illustrate the stark reality of the situation with specific examples taken from our audited accounts – facts that really cannot be argued with. You will see that there really isn’t anything left to cut or economise or restructure. We are expected to respond to budget constraints like a business, but we are an essential service preparing the adults of the future who will be leading and shaping our world. Therefore, we have a baseline of essential need: safe, secure and maintained buildings; high quality, well trained staff; enough of these staff to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum; enough resources and equipment to support the delivery of the broad and balanced curriculum in classrooms fit for purpose to accommodate an effective teacher/pupil ratio.
Unfortunately, the DfE’s response to Headteachers explaining the seriousness of the funding situation is to tell Heads that they must do more with less. Schools have responded over the past 5 years by ensuring good value for money in all areas of expenditure, but there comes a point when no more savings can be made without compromising the baseline of essential need. We have cut staff, increased the number on roll and not replaced essential resources. We have definitely upheld our end of the agreement yet we have had around £2M less to spend on the children in our care than we should have had over the past 5 years, and the future of school funding looks even worse.
We hope that the truth of the crisis in school funding will finally be heard and acted upon by sharing our experience with you. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you need any further clarification.
Governors and Leaders of St Anne’s Catholic School and Sixth Form College
- Our General Annual Grant has reduced by £1,047,139 since 2013 - a cut of over 16%
- Our funding per pupil has reduced from £5,777 to £4,965 since 2013
- Similar schools in different parts of the country receive £7,000 per pupil.
- The National Funding Formula claims to allocate funding more fairly to all schools but it will not be implemented for at least 2 years and any increase (up to a maximum of £50, 000) or decrease (a potential cut of £1,450) must be seen in the context of the cuts of up to £1,000 per pupil for disadvantaged students that will take place under the National Funding Formula.
- Sixth Form Funding has been cut by 21% per student since 2010/11
- We have £1,047,139 less, with a growing school population and fewer staff.
- Externally enforced additional costs have increased the cost of staffing every year. These costs include increased employer’s National Insurance contributions and employer’s pension contributions. In 2015/16 these costs rose by 7% and we expect costs to continue to rise by at least 2% each year. For example, this year we must find over £60,000 to meet the latest enforced increases to employer pension contributions
- Our funding does not increase to cover this cost and is not index linked
- The payment we expect to receive from the Government to ‘fully fund’ the recent pay rise will be £35,000 less than the actual cost
- In 2014 we had 128 full time equivalent (FTE) staff
- As a result of these increases, in 2018 we have 9 fewer FTE staff costing us nearly £400,000 more
REFUSED FUNDING BIDS:
- In April 2017 we applied for £406,000 to provide for the 78 additional pupils joining the school since the census in October 2016, when funding for the following year is decided
- The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) advised us to apply for the funding and advised on the application process, including clear advice not to go into deficit
- The ESFA then took 16 months to make the decision to refuse the application because a) we have a sixth form (which they knew) and b) we are not in deficit (which they advised us not to be)
- This application was refused despite the growth in numbers being 8%, 4% higher than the benchmark; the strong recommendation from the ESFA’s own School Resources Management Adviser and the ESFA’s undertaking in point 48 of our Academy Funding Agreement
- There are no appeals or complaints procedures available for the school to use concerning this decision
- Our £1.1M Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) bid to make urgent roof repairs was refused in March 2018 and again following appeal in the summer term. We have applied again in November for what are now extremely urgent repairs to our ’46 bucket’ roofs. We also need to spend over £1M replacing failing windows.
- We receive capital funding of £22,500 per year to pay for maintenance and repair.
ADDITIONAL FUNDING RECENTLY ANNOUNCED
- The ‘Little Extras’ fund announced in the Autumn Budget is a welcome injection of additional funds, but does not address the systemic underfunding. St Anne’s received £55,000 capital funding which will be spent on urgent health and safety issues and the replacement of a failed boiler.
- Additional High Needs funding announced at the end of the Autumn term is again very welcome, but the amount allocated is a drop in the ocean and goes nowhere near addressing the national shortfall. Where there is a shortfall in the High Needs Block of funding, local authorities have little alternative than to take the money from the main Schools Block, cutting the amount of money available to schools yet again.
- The National Audit Office (HM Government) investigated the financial sustainability of schools and published its findings in December 2016. Their key findings make interesting reading and clearly show that following the 2015 Spending Review the DfE expected schools to cope with funding that not only would not increase in line with inflation, but would require a minimum of £3.0 billion saving by 2019/20. In addition to this projection, the DfE made no attempt to assess the financial impact of policy changes such as the withdrawal of the Education Services Grant nor did they communicate to schools the scale and pace of savings that would be needed. All of this is in addition to the cost of the changes to GCSE and A Level courses and the subsequent requirement to buy new resources and train staff for significantly different courses across Key Stages 3, 4 and 5.
- According to the Education Policy Institute, half of all secondary academies and 60% of maintained secondary schools are spending more than they are receiving, forcing them to dip into their reserves. Accountants working with academies warn that in 2 more years the entire sector could face insolvency.
- The National Audit Office said ‘While the Department has estimated the pressures from inflation and increased pay-related costs, it has not assessed the financial impact for schools of its policy changes. The Department compiles a list of future policy changes that it expects will affect schools but has no plans to assess the financial implications for schools of these changes. It does not therefore have assurance that its policies are affordable within current spending plans without adversely affecting educational outcomes. It leaves schools and multi-academy trusts to manage the consequences individually.’
- At St Anne’s we have managed these consequences every year to the very best of our ability, but we are close to the point where there is nothing left to cut. We hope that the reality we are dealing with every day will help inform the 2019 Comprehensive Spending Review, so that a decision is made to give our children the funding they need to flourish.
At St Anne’s we invest in the future.
All we are asking for is adequate and fair funding for our children.