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NAO confirms school budgets being pushed beyond breaking point, says NAHT

Commenting on the National Audit Office report on the financial sustainability of schools, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “the national audit office echoes what school leaders have been saying; schools budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point.

“With rising costs linked to national insurance and pension contributions, and flat lining budgets, schools are finding it hard to balance their budgets. The NAO reports sets out that mainstream schools are expected to find £3 billion in savings by 2019-20. Whilst school business managers are very adept at managing tight budgets, it is clear that schools cannot make these savings without reducing their biggest cost, which is staffing. To do this puts the quality of education at risk.

“Ahead of the autumn statement we called on the Chancellor to provide more money for schools. Without this, the long promised national funding formula for schools will not work. Yes it is about fairness in how the money is distributed, but there must also be sufficient money to begin with.

“The NAO report is a further wake up call for the government. We must see more money allocated to schools, or put at risk the improving education system. All schools must receive the money they are entitled to, which means guaranteeing that all children receive free school meals and schools the associated pupil premium. The Government can amend the Digital Economy Bill to do this, as NAHT has argued. We ask them now, as a matter of urgency, to amend this bill as it passes through the House of Lords. 

“This report makes clear that more than six out of ten secondary schools spent more than their income in 2014/15. This echoes our recent survey in which 69% of school leaders stated that they believe that their deficits will be untenable by 2020. The government must act. The national funding formula has the chance to bring fairness to budget allocations. Let’s see this matched with the funding schools need.”

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, says: “teachers experience funding pressures every day, whether that’s through low levels of staffing, the inability to replace equipment, a narrowing of the curriculum or an end to many extra-curricular activities. Behind the headline figures of 8 per cent cuts by 2019-20 are the real impacts funding levels are having on children’s education.

“NAHT has long campaigned for a national funding formula that distributes funding in a fairer and more transparent way. This is the right thing to do. But we also need the funding to back this up. An equal share of an insufficient pot is no solution. We need the government to realise that spending on education is an investment not a cost.”

First published 05 January 2018