More secondary schools fell into deficit in the United Kingdom, with recent statistics showing that the number has trebled since 2014 to over 25%. The EPI (Educational Policy Institute) has studied the aggravating issue over the past years and published the result a few days ago – the deficit went from just under 9% in 2014 to 26.1% in 2017.
The problem reflects over primary schools as well, which seem to end their years in deficit. The EPI has analyzed authority schools that actually provide access to such information. There is no data on academies though.
It is no longer a surprise that a significant number of schools might deal with financial struggle, yet there was never such obvious evidence. The issue became a focal point for voters in the General Election campaign. However, the EPI report goes further than that. Up to 67% of council schools spent more than they could afford before the end of 2017. More than 40% of them had negative balances for two consecutive years. According to the report, the yearly staff pay increase is among the main reasons. The government boosts the minimum pay on a yearly basis, causing difficulties to companies and institutions.
EPI director for school performance Jon Andrews claims that despite the extra funding coming from the National Funding Formula, the yearly pay increase puts even more pressure on schools. As if their expenses were not overwhelming enough, dealing with wages will make the venture even more challenging.
General secretary of the NEU (National Education Union) Mary Bousted agrees that many schooling institutions exceed their yearly income and spend more than they can afford. At this point, it is obvious that the government fails to consider the schools’ necessities, leading to an obvious deficit. Furthermore, she underlines the necessity of investing in proper staff. As a direct consequence, classes have been growing in size. Professors are overwhelmed and lessons must be generalized for whole classes to take advantage of them.
Courses lose their depth and the effects of financial struggle reflects on students – less customization, little to no demand, generalized essay writer projects and more free time. In terms of staff, cuts are extremely likely in the next few years. In many schools, staff cuts are already taking place.
This vicious circle requires a financial shock for action to happen. The more the government waits, the deeper this debt becomes. Apart from staff cuts, schools also risk closure. Everything reflects on the actual students. A sudden shock might be unexpected, but it can have a positive impact on the schooling industry. At this point, schools cannot even afford a small pay rise of 1% without considering cuts.
Funding for children with specific necessities requires special attention too. Additional funds are required according to a research conducted by the Local Government Association, especially after a recent cut. General secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders Geoff Barton agrees that without a major change, councils will find themselves unable to meet the main necessities of students with special needs. Sooner or later, they will end up missing out on a decent education.
Despite these studies and claims, the Department for Education has a completely different point of view. In fact, a spokesperson agreed that these findings are not relevant and realistic. Specific reforms have actually boosted the standards in schools. Apparently, schools hold more than £4 billion in surplus, while the Department for Education provides support to help these institutions spend their money wisely. Of course, some schools do better than others, but overall, they don’t appear to struggle with money.