You will recall in the press a few years ago that Headteachers were calling for a funding review because schools believed their budgets were untenable by 2019/20. Like other schools, most have faced these ever increasing pressures and rising costs. Although the phrase ‘perfect storm’ gets over-used, it is perhaps an appropriate way to describe the pay and inflation; rising pension and National Insurance costs, the National Living Wage, the introduction of the apprentice levy, cuts in educational services and grants and of course reductions in pupil numbers.
The gradual erosion of support from Local Authorities also meant that schools provide or buy in services that would have once been delivered by the council. This is all before we get to pressures of rising utility costs and decaying infrastructure (despite the government offering 216m in 2017 to refurbish school buildings) Schools have ‘made ends meet’ by reducing support staff hours, reducing investment in equipment and by generating private income.
The National Funding Formula was supposed to even out discrepancies in school funding and this did give schools some gains but they also lost some. Schools may find that they are facing deficits next year. The demand and expectation – the need to deliver an effective world class education – has never been greater. Covid 19 has already had an impact on schools income and expenditure, with some schools reporting that the Covid-19 claim to the DFE for other category costs not being covered. Schools are having to make some extremely difficult financial decisions.
When the usually mild-mannered, amenable Business Leader says ‘this is not sustainable’, then it is time for the school to review it’s outgoings. If you are feeling that your school finances are costing you a good night’s sleep and you are worried about staffing levels or setting a balanced budget, please get in touch. It also helps to have an open and honest discussion that your SLT and Governing Body should be privy too.