ASCL comment on NFER report on schools with in-year deficits

Julia Harnden, Funding Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which found that almost half of primary schools and special schools and two-fifths of secondary schools in England had or were expecting an in-year deficit in 2022/23.
“The fact that so many school budgets are in the red should be a warning sign to the government that the financial pressure on the sector is unsustainable.
“It is true that the government has put more money into education in recent years but the problem is that this comes after a decade of real-terms cuts and is being outstripped by the soaring cost of things like energy bills and school meals.
“Many schools face the prospect of having to make further savings. While they strive to minimise the effect on pupils, this inevitably has a negative impact on learning and the additional support they are able to provide to children with special educational needs.
“Schools serving disadvantaged communities do not even have the option of asking parents to help with the cost of resources as their families simply cannot afford to do so.
“The government boasts that schools are receiving ‘record funding’ but this is not how it feels on the ground faced with the reality of spiralling costs and with capital funding for repairing and refurbishing buildings having been halved in real-terms since 2010.
“The simple truth is that if the level of investment in education does not match rising costs this necessitates cuts. The government has to invest more in education, including early years, special schools and post-16 provision, to ensure that the needs of every pupil can be met.”