Balancing the budget: five key issues that could put your school in the red
In a period of squeezed school finances and funding reforms, Jeremy Sutcliffe spotlights the issues and changes that school managers need to be aware of.
With the economy continuing to flatline and the government struggling to control a growing national deficit, these are tough times for schools.
Any hope that austerity measures introduced after the last election might soon be replaced by rising budgets in time for a return to the polls in 2015 now seems wildly optimistic.
Most state schools in England have already had to make cuts following a three-year freeze in core budgets imposed in April 2011. Schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have also had to tighten their belts.
Despite the introduction of the new pupil premium, due to rise to £900 per eligible child in April 2013, only schools in the most deprived areas of England will see real terms growth in budgets by the time the current funding settlement ends in March 2014. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), around two-thirds of primary schools and 80% of secondary schools will have experienced real-terms budget cuts over the three-year period. About half of primary and over 60% of secondary schools are likely to see real-terms decreases of 5% or more.
Only schools with the highest proportion of disadvantaged pupils will be net gainers as a result of the pupil premium. The IFS calculates that just 3% of secondary and 10% of primary schools will see real-terms increases of 5% or more by 2014.
This is a gloomy enough out-look but the long-term forecast is scarcely any better according to Tony Travers, director of LSE London, a research centre at the London School of Economics. "Schools will be getting a zero real-terms increase in budgets for several years to come or, at the very best, an increase of 1% above inflation after 2014. It is way less than occurred during the period 2000 to 2010," he says.
Read more ... (The Guardian - 20 October)