The number of secondary schools in England that are in deficit has nearly trebled over the past four years, researchers say.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI), an independent think tank, says that around one in four secondary schools are struggling financially.

They say that the numbers in deficit has increased to 26.1% in 2017 from 2013’s figure of 8.8%.

The study also highlights that there’s been a big jump in the numbers of primary schools in England that are also in deficit.

However, the government is disputing the findings.

Figures for 60% of secondary schools in England

In the report, EPI says it looked at publicly available data, excluding academies, to provide figures for 60% of secondary schools in England and 20% of primaries.

Their research highlights that growing numbers of schools are struggling financially.

Their findings also point to the fact that two in three of local authority-run schools last year spent more than they received and 40% are seeing balances for the last two years in decline.

The report says: “In England, a significant proportion of schools are unable to meet the cost of staff pay increases annually from their own reserves and government funding, even over the short term.”

The report also highlights that more schools are spending more money than they receive and growing staff costs will add to the pressure even with the National Funding Formula delivering extra funds.

School needs are not being met currently by the government

The National Education Union’s joint general secretary, Dr Mary Boustead, said that school needs are not being met currently by the government.

She added: “This will include the need to invest in support staff and teachers and recent research has shown that class sizes are increasing because of government underfunding.”

The Association of School and College Leaders’ general secretary, Geoff Barton, said that a large number of schools will struggle to pay for their teachers 1% pay rise because they are so cash-strapped and will have to make further cuts to their budgets.

He added: “Staff cuts are not just likely but have taken place in many schools already.

“The government has failed to provide funding for schools and pay awards over several years and it is one of additional cost pressures that are pushing school finances to breaking point.”

Thanks to the hard work of teachers

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We don’t recognise the findings and thanks to the hard work of teachers, and our reforms, standards are rising in schools.

“The latest figures show that schools have surpluses of over £4 billion and we are providing help to get the most out of the money they spend.”


More information

The EPI report ‘School funding pressures in England’ can be found on their website.