A new report from Arcadis and SSAT, the Schools Students and Teachers network, reveals that 84% of schools responding to a recent survey on school funding plan to run a deficit budget within the next three years, with 62% of schools already doing so.
The analysis comes from a survey of over 160 primary and secondary school leaders, part of a new report – Triumph in Adversity?: how financial restraints are driving schools to do things differently – published today by Arcadis and SSAT.
Commenting on the headline figure, Tom Middlehurst, head of policy and public affairs at SSAT said:
“The percentage of schools planning to run a deficit budget is ultimately a self-reported figure, and may not accurately reflect the reality of school finances across the system. However, it does indicate the strength of feeling and concern among school leaders regarding their financial efficacy in the coming years.”
The survey comes at a time when the government have promised flat cash per pupil, against rising staff costs, pension contributions and inflation, resulting in an estimated 10% decline from 2014 – 2020. Meanwhile, plans for a new national funding formula have been delayed, following the EU referendum result in June.
Despite the challenges, the report highlights the innovative solutions that schools are using to both reduce expenditure and to raise additional income.
Louise Robinson, partner at Arcadis, said:
“School leaders are making reductions in a number of ways. With more multi-academy-trusts, chains and federations, schools can drive savings of between 3-8% by achieving economies of scale for key back-office functions.”
The report also suggests that schools are making savings through new approaches to teaching and learning, such as utilising technology, sharing specialist staff across MATs and federations, and even n some cases introducing ‘super classes’ of over 60 pupils.
Schools are also finding ways of generating income, for example through leasing of school buildings, hiring many of their facilities for community use, and providing services such as child daycare and catering.
The report concludes that while financial challenges remain a concern for the school system, schools are finding solutions to these problems, and that more needs to be done to share good practice and drive efficiency in the system.