From the National Governance Association (NGA) website

DfE does not understand the financial pressure facing schools, say MPs


A committee of MPs has warned that the Department for Education (DfE) does not seem to understand the financial pressure facing schools - the most significant since the mid-1990s -and is not in a position to act swiftly where cuts threaten the quality of pupils’ education.


In its report, published today, the Public Accounts Committee said funding per pupil is reducing in real terms and if schools are to cope, then ‘efficiency savings’ will need to rise from £1.1 billion in 2016–17 to £3 billion by 2019–20. It says this is due to costs which are beyond their control, such as pay rises, higher employer contributions to national insurance and the teachers’ pension scheme, and the apprenticeship levy.

The committee concluded that savings have already been made, but the Government’s insistence that schools make more savings, which could come in the form of reduced spending on staff, will be hard to achieve without affecting the quality of education. Meg Hillier MP, who chairs the committee, said the Government must not be deaf to the experiences of headteachers who have already had to make potentially damaging cuts in areas such as maintenance, teacher recruitment and pastoral services.

Click here to read NGA’s evidence to the Public Accounts Committee

The committee says it is not clear how the Department will monitor both spending and performance so that it can intervene quickly where schools make efficiency savings that risk causing damage: “Without effective and timely monitoring of areas such as the breadth of the curriculum and class sizes, there is a real risk that the Department will not be able to prevent declining standards.” 

The committee is concerned that the Department does not know where schools are making savings now or what the impact will be. It says that the Department is relying on existing information such as Ofsted inspections and exam results. “However, these indicators are time lagged and we may not know the full impact on educational outcomes until 2021 when the new GCSE results come through. This will be too late for the children who are in school now.”

The committee also warned that the Education Funding Agency's approach to oversight of school finances means it does not intervene as often as it should or as early as it should in local authorities with maintained schools at financial risk. It gives the example of the Isle of Wight, where: “the Agency did not intervene…even though 13% of its maintained schools had deficits of 2.5% or more in 2014–15, the highest proportion of any local authority.”   

The committee says that the Department does not seem to be learning from the experience of other sectors, "in particular from how over-ambitious efficiency targets in the NHS proved counter-productive".

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said: "Pupils' futures are at risk if the Department for Education fails to act on the warnings in our report. It sets out more evidence of what increasingly appears to be a collective delusion in Government about the scope for further efficiency savings in public services.

“The Education Funding Agency's record on intervention, as well as its failure to evaluate whether its interventions are helping schools to address financial risk, does not inspire confidence. Government must take all necessary steps to ensure it can intervene quickly if action taken by schools to meet efficiency targets risks damaging standards.

“Grand plans drawn up in Whitehall are dangerous if they are implemented without regard to real-world consequences and we will expect to see measures to address our concerns as a matter of urgency."

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, has said: “Funding is now the biggest concern for governing boards across the country. Unless there is urgent reform an increasing number of schools will be unable to balance their budgets in 2017 without significant staffing reductions which will affect the quality of education provided to pupils. The Government must control public spending, but the education of our young people is fundamental to the future prosperity of the country.”

Recommendations by the Public Accounts Committee:

  1. The Department should develop and publish by the end of June 2017 a set of indicators, which it will monitor to gain assurance that the quality of education and the outcomes schools achieve are not being adversely affected by the need to make savings. These indicators might include the breadth of curriculum, class sizes and pupil-teacher ratios.
  2. The Department should build on the arrangements it is putting in place from July 2017 to speak to head teachers about the efficiency challenges they face, how useful they find the Department’s guidance and support, and what more the Department could do to help schools make savings.
  3. The Government should set out by the end of June 2017 the financial impact of the Apprenticeship levy on schools.
  4. The Department should publish by the end of April 2017 the results of its work to assess the impact of withdrawing the Education Services Grant; and it should routinely assess and make public the cost implications of policy changes including curriculum and assessment changes.
  5. The Education Funding Agency should set out by the end of June 2017 how it will refine its approach to intervening with local authorities and academies, including how and when it will evaluate the effectiveness of its interventions.
  6. The Department should write to us by the end of June 2017 outlining how its approach to schools’ financial sustainability reflects lessons from the experience of other sectors, in particular the Department of Health and the NHS.

BBC Governance Survey

Last week, the BBC published the results of an exclusive survey of more than a thousand NGA members; school governors and trustees in England. The survey looked at the decisions being made by our members to try and manage the unprecedented financial pressure facing schools, and what the consequences of those decisions will be for teachers and pupils.

The survey found that in 2017-18:

  • 39% of respondents expect to cut the number of full-time teachers, rising to 45% in 2018-19
  • 60% of respondents expect to cut teaching assistants and support staff hours
  • 42% of respondents expect to increase class sizes
  • 33% of respondents expect to reduce the number of subjects on offer. 

The survey also found that schools are going to extraordinary lengths to find more money. As well as renting out school facilities to local community groups or businesses for meetings, they are appointing professional fundraisers on commission, asking parents to carry out essential maintenance and seeking sponsorship from businesses. Some schools were asking parents for voluntary financial contributions.

More on this:

Unsupported budget cuts put education at risk, says National Audit Office

Emma Knights explains the financial situation facing schools on the BBC Breakfast show skip to 07.12

Funding the Future: supporting England’s schools

NGA and NAHT urge Chancellor to keep manifesto promise to protect per-pupil funding

‘The choice I have to make is an immoral one’, a guest blog by Claire Carter

NGA response to the Department for Education's consultation, 'Schools that work for everyone'

Do you have something to say about this issue? We want to hear from you. Email gillian.allcroft@nga.org.uk

School Budgets 'close to breaking point' say NAHT & National Governors' Association (NGA)

NLAGB Executive members would also like to draw your attention to the information click on the following link below to the NGA website:

School budgets ‘close to breaking point' say NAHT - National Governors Association

This urges heads and governors to write urgently to their local MP about the impact of funding pressures on our own schools/academies and provides a really easy to adapt template for doing this. Executive members have been made aware that some schools in our authority have already done this and have asked us to encourage others to do likewise. The NGA report refers to concerns from NAHT as well as from NGA. As chair of the NLAGB I have discussed this with Ewart Gibbs who is the NAHT representative locally (as well as being long standing chair of Schools Forum) and he supports our action in bringing this to your attention for consideration. We apologise for the lateness of this because, as you will see, the letter is urging MP’s to take action before the next budget on 8th March and so, if you decide to take action, it needs to be done straight away.

The NLAGB executive received a surprise invitation just this week from the National Governors’ Association to send two representatives to take part in the next meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Education Governance and Leadership in the House of Commons on 23rd February. The meeting is focused on the topic of school funding. Myself as NLAGB Chair and Rosie Pugh, head at Castledyke and member of numerous groups locally including School Forum and The Education Standards Board, will be attending. It should be an interesting day and we look forward to sharing our experience and learning with you all next half term.


Unfortunately, due to Storm Doris, Angela and Rosie could not get to the APPG meeting despite spending 7 hours on packed trains only to get no further than Peterborough. However, others did manage to arrive (presumable not travelling by East Coast rail) and the minutes are here for your information.

Minutes of The All Party Parliamentary Group for Education Governance and Leadership (APPG)

APPG minutes 23rd Feb.pdf APPG minutes 23rd Feb.pdf
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Type : pdf

From NGA N/L

Funding the future: the latest developments and news relating to NGA’s funding campaign

NGA and NAHT write to the Chancellor

On Monday 27 February, NGA and the school leaders’ union NAHT published an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, calling for more money to be allocated to the education budget.

In the letter, NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby and NGA chief executive Emma Knights, ask for a number of changes to ensure schools can deliver high quality education including:

  •   making additional funding available by increasing the basic building blocks proposed per pupil in order to keep the manifesto promise to protect per-pupil funding in real terms
  •   ensuring maintained schools are given the same exclusions from the apprenticeship levy as those offered to standalone academies
  •   reversing proposals that will leave high needs funding with a £124 million shortfall
  •   committing to sufficient funding for sixth forms and early years
  •   ensuring that children eligible for the pupil premium are registered automatically

The letter concludes by underlining the urgency of the school funding crisis: “Children get one chance to attend school, so action is needed now. We ask you to use this Budget to commit the resources schools need to provide the highest standard of education for all children.”

The publication of the letter coincided with the release of a new Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) report into education spending. The report confirms that spending has fallen in real terms from 2010, and that between 2015/16 and 2019/20, school spending per-pupil will likely suffer its biggest real terms fall for at least the last 30 years. 

MPs share governing boards’ funding concerns with minister

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Education Governance and Leadership met on Thursday 23 February to discuss school funding. Despite the meeting being held on the same day as Storm Doris, the room was full to capacity and contributions were made by MPs, governors, trustees, headteachers, teachers, school business managers and parents, representing constituencies all over the country. The minutes of the meeting are available to download here.

There was a broad recognition that the current funding system is not fit for purpose and a move to a new, fair and transparent system is needed. Most people also agreed that the total amount in the schools budget is insufficient for the number of pupils now being educated and that the current level of funding is unsustainable. Attendees agreed that further cuts would have a direct impact on pupils potentially leading to a fall in standards and restricting the offer to pupils.

Following the APPG, Gillian Allcroft, NGA’s deputy chief executive and four MPs met with the minister for school standards, Nick Gibb MP, to relay the issues and concerns discussed.

Find out more about the Funding the Future campaign.


 This article can also be found in the National News 2017 page on this web site.

Page last updated 27/04/2017

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