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Schools going ‘cap in hand’ to communities amid funding squeeze warns NAHT

More than nine in ten school leaders (95%) say they have had to raise income from sources like charity grants and fundraising to cover basic costs - ranging from classroom materials and staffing, to play equipment and building repairs.  

Alarmingly, only 1% of leaders who took part in the survey by school leaders’ union NAHT said they currently received enough funding to fully meet the needs of all their pupils. 

More than half of school leaders (53%) said they had needed to generate additional income beyond their core school funding to cover costs of classroom materials, and almost a quarter (24%) had to do this to cover staffing costs. Seven in 10 had needed to do so to fund play equipment (71%) and extra-curricular activities, like school trips, and clubs (69%), while 37% had to raise funds to cover estate management and building repairs.  

The poll of more than 1,000 school leaders about funding pressures comes as NAHT members prepare to debate funding and other issues affecting schools at the union’s annual conference in Newport this weekend (MAY 3rd-4th)

The School Cuts Coalition, which NAHT is a member of, estimates that 70% of schools have had their funding cut in real terms by the government since 2010, leaving cash-strapped schools with no option but to consider unpalatable budget cuts and different ways of raising income. 

More than half (55%) of the union’s members who took part in the survey worry they will have to cut teachers or teaching hours over the next three years – on top of 43% who say they have already had to do so over the last three years.  

Nearly half (48%) are concerned they will have to make savings on other admin support staff or their hours over the next three years, and 47% think they will need to cut or restructure their leadership team. 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at NAHT, which is the country’s biggest school leaders’ union, said: “These truly alarming findings make crystal clear the devastating impact of funding shortfalls upon schools across the country.   

“What have things come to when schools are having to rely on charity and go cap in hand to local communities to afford teaching staff, classroom materials and play equipment at a time when many families are themselves struggling to get by? 

“School leaders do everything in their power to protect children’s education, but the reality is that funding shortfalls mean cuts to teachers and teaching assistants, larger class sizes, reduced subject choice, and less individual support for pupils. At their worst, they may even threaten the future viability of some schools. 

“The government has quite simply failed to invest anything like enough in our schools over the last decade to keep pace with inflation, and funding remains below 2010 levels in real terms. 

“It is absolutely imperative that whoever takes the reins of power after the next General Election changes course and invests properly in our schools and children’s futures.” 

Sean Maher, head teacher at Richard Challoner School, a secondary school in Kingston-upon-Thames, said: “I’ve never known the budget situation so dire. Everywhere you look there’s a squeeze on funding. 

“We’ve already cut admin staff to the bone and we’ve had to lose four teaching assistants and three teachers over the last two years. Sometimes that means existing teachers have to take on more, sometimes we have to make changes to the curriculum which may mean it is not quite as broad and balanced. 

“It’s an unacceptable situation and these decisions are not in children’s best interests. It’s becoming harder to maintain our status as an excellent school.” 

Mr Maher said the school had to lease facilities including the gym, sports hall and a garage to community groups for activities like music, dance and sport, for family celebrations and for business use. 

He said the school relied on contributions of around £45,000 a year from fundraising by the Parent & Teacher Association and £35,000 from parents to help pay for equipment, resources and repairs. Recently, these have included a new minibus, gym floor, library shelving and a new outdoor sensory area for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

“Without the money raised through lettings and other income and from the PTA and parents we could not run the staffing model that we do or afford all the equipment and resources we need for our pupils,” added Mr Maher. “It’s as simple as that.” 

Notes to Editors 

  • 1,048 members responded to NAHT’s funding survey, which ran from 10-23 April. 

First published 30 April 2024