More evidence of funding pressures on schools

At the start of the holiday season the DfE has issued a raft of both data in the form of a statistical bulletin and other publications. The most interesting concerns academies in general and specifically examples where threats of termination or other action against specific academies have been made public, possibly in some cases for the first time.

In terms of the income and expenditure of academies not in multi-academy trusts, but operating as single academies published as part of this information, it is only worth looking at the data in the round because of the changing nature of the sector as more schools, especially in the primary sector transfer from maintained to academy status and other move form single academy status to become part of a multi-academy trust.

One figure stands out in the data for the year 2015/16. This is fact that across all classes of academy expenditure exceeded income for the first time: a sign of the growing cost pressures on schools.

Sector                   Income/                               Media expenditure         Number of schools                                       Expenditure                       Per pupil

Primary                 I                                                 £4,791                                 787

E                                                £4,824

Secondary            I                                                 £5,714                                 984

E                                                £5,968

Special                   I                                               £22,321                   77

E                                              £22,409

All Through          I                                                 £6,104                                   56

E                                                £6,285

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/633153/SFR32_2017_Main_Text.pdf  SFR 32/2017

Now, even allowing for the fact that schools in Multi-Academy Trusts are excluded from the table, because of the issue of handling their central overheads: those costs previous governments always vilified local authorities for charging – there are enough schools to illustrate the cost pressures facing the sector that will almost certainly only have only worsened in the 2016/17 financial year now ending.

A more detailed look at the median income and expenditure for this group of single academy trusts between 2014/15 and 2015/16 reveals a slight fall in grant income per pupil even before the effects of inflation are taken into account. Primary schools seem to have been able to offset this fall by increasing self-generated income.

On the expenditure side, staffing costs generally increased, with expenditure of teaching staff increasing by around £70 per pupil across the 1,700 or so mainstream schools. Interestingly, supply teacher expenditure fell in these schools between 2014/15 and 2015/16, although not by a significant amount. The most noticeable reductions in expenditure were on back office costs; unidentified ‘other’ costs; non-ICT learning resources and energy costs. This distribution of reductions reflects that witnessed during the reduction in funding for schools early in the 1980s discussed in a previous post on this blog.

The concern must be that the longer funding per pupil comes under pressure the harder it will be for schools to maintain their upward direction of travel in expenditure on staff. It would not surprise me to see non-teaching staff costs either stagnate or even reduce when the figures for 2016/17 are published this time next year. Schools are likely to try to protect expenditure on teaching staff at all costs, but it is difficult to see how they can do so even after only one per cent pay increases to all staff without an injection of funds that at least matches the increase in the staffing costs of schools.

The next question to address, is whether schools in MATs spend more or less than single academy trust schools on the different categories of expenditure and specifically how their median expenditure of teaching staff per pupil compares with the median for single academy trusts? But, that’s for another post.

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4 thoughts on “More evidence of funding pressures on schools

  1. No doubt the Government will claim that stand-alone academies could save money by joining a MAT. But such transfers, especially if the stand-alone is struggling financially (or has poor Ofsted or low results), can cost money in rebrokerage. The DfE accounts, also published last week, lumped the cost of converting schools to academies and the cost of transfer under one heading. An attempt to hide transfer costs perhaps? http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2017/07/119m-in-grants-for-academy-trusts-converting-or-rebrokering-last-year-dfe-accounts-reveal

    • Janet,

      I think we want to look at MAT overheads to see whether there is any benefit to schools in being in MATs in cash terms? I have heard of a primary school where the governors wanted to exit a MAT and were then sacked. Apparently the parents are also unhappy with the present arrangements. They cannot sack the CEO as they could vote out the local councillor. Should schools be under local democratic control or more like Labour’s NHS model for services with no local democratic control?

      John

      • One interesting comment in the DfE accounts was that the DfE no longer regard members of local academy boards as ‘related parties’ because they are ‘insufficiently influential’ in the multi-academy trust. In other words, they are under the power of the MAT board and, as you make clear above, can be sacked if they aren’t biddable. So much for the much-vaunted autonomy and freedom.

      • Janet,

        I can see why LABs are not powerful enough to be able to stand up o MAT trustees. Schools should not enter a MAT without doing a risk analysis of what they are surrendering if anything goes wrong with the new arrangement.

        John

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