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A failure to invest – the state of school funding 2021

New data shows England’s school children are suffering from the government’s ‘failure to invest’

NAHT's new school funding report, which is being launched in parliament this afternoon (8 Sept), lays bare the impact of over a decade of chronic underfunding of England's schools.

We surveyed over 1,500 school leaders in England over the summer, and this report shines a light on the consequences of year after year of insufficient funding:

  • Almost a third (31 per cent) of school leaders reported making cuts to balance their budget in 2020/21, rising to 35 per cent who expect they will be forced to make cuts this academic year.
  • One in four (26 per cent) school leaders predict a deficit budget in 2021/22 based on current funding levels.
     

NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman, said:
"The government's failure to invest in schools over the past decade is forcing them to cut back on staff, support for pupils, and activities that enrich the school day. Despite all the rhetoric on additional investment in schools, it is clear that school budgets remain under enormous pressure. A far more ambitious programme of investment is required from the government if schools are going to be able to deliver the education that the current generation of pupils need and deserve."

School leaders also raised particular concerns about the insufficiency of funding for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND):

  • Almost all school leaders (97 per cent) reported that funding for pupils with SEND in their school is insufficient, and similar numbers (95 per cent) reported that top-up funding for pupils with education, health and care (EHC) plans was insufficient.
  • Four in five (79 per cent) said they had to fund the purchase of additional services because they were not available or accessible from health and social care.

Paul Whiteman continued:
"The crisis in funding for pupils with special educational needs is clear for all to see and is putting significant pressure on school budgets. This report underlines why a comprehensive review of SEND funding, based on pupil need, is urgently needed. Changes to the way that national funding is shared between schools will not solve the problem when there is insufficient money in the system in the first place. The government needs to increase funding so that schools are able to properly meet the needs of all their pupils."

School leaders will be speaking directly to MPs today at a parliamentary briefing organised by NAHT. This will be followed by an online rally at 5pm which anyone can attend and which will be streamed live on Facebook

We remain committed to shining a spotlight on the underfunding of schools and continue to campaign for a significant and sustained improvement in school funding. Find out more.

Our report highlights the facts and figures; our members know the day-to-day realities of trying to lead a school through extraordinary times, with ever-increasing funding pressures. Some shared their experiences with us:

Lesley Roberts, head teacher of a primary school in Berkshire
"Teaching assistants no longer help all pupils. They only work in the classes where we have children with EHCPs, as we are short to cover their needs. This then reduces our ability to release staff for training and cover our office full time. We also can't afford a caretaker or SENDco. As a head teacher in the last two years, I have been a SENDco, school business manager, caretaker and head teacher as well as cover for the office and classes. Special needs is beyond crisis in schools, it's sucking the money from budgets."

Helen Spearing, head teacher of a primary school in Staffordshire
"We have to restrict the number of school trips because we can't afford to subsidise them if parents can't afford to contribute. We have had to make the difficult decision to go through a process to change TA salaries to term time only. More and more children have complex needs which require additional support, but we don't have the finances to provide extra staff. We then have to balance the needs of one child against the needs of a class of children."

Lorna Legg, head teacher of a primary school in Devon
"We have pockets of rural and coastal deprivation here and a lack of easy access to services for our families and our schools. In fact, we have had no access to an educational psychologist for the past academic year. Special needs provision is an area where the budget has been consistently overspent, due to increasing need and lower funding than many counties, with schools being 'asked' to give more of our budget share towards filling this gap every year."

Gavin MacGregor, head teacher of a primary school in London
"We have had to cut back on our well-being and mental health support by not renewing our Place2Be counselling service. We have also had nine members of support staff leave and have only replaced two."

First published 08 September 2021