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Why do some schools face budget cuts, and some schools don't?

(86 Posts)
liankian Tue 04-Apr-17 14:55:26

I’ve just received an email from my son’s primary school. It said the school is facing budget cuts. That they now don’t have allocated funding for library upgrade and class furniture.

Meanwhile, I asked a friend of mine. Her children are also at primary level, but it seems their school is just fine.

Actually, my friend’s school is located in a richer area and is rated as an outstanding school. While my son’s school is only rated Good.

I was wondering whether these two factors – the school’s geographical area and its ratings – have an impact on the school’s funding.
Could you pls explain?
Thank you

senua Tue 04-Apr-17 17:43:06

We are a relatively rich area. We are not suffering cuts, in fact I think we are on an increase.
This is because for years we have been on relatively low funding.
Life is, at last, evening out a bit.

soapboxqueen Tue 04-Apr-17 17:50:35

It will depend on what the local authority and what the budget used to be. Most schools don't have enough cash so even if some schools get a slight increase, they won't be rolling in it.

noblegiraffe Tue 04-Apr-17 20:37:41

Pretty much every school will be facing cuts, even those that see an increase under the new formula will have less money over the next few years as various school-related costs increase.

Some schools have been more public about the effects of the cuts than others. Some have been more proactive at making the changes required not to go into a deficit.

I think it's more likely that you don't know (yet) how it will affect your DC than there being no problem.

admission Tue 04-Apr-17 20:49:04

School funding is changing but at present the funding is allocated using different parameters which each Local Authority is responsible for. In a couple of year we will have a national funding formula, so that will mean that every school is funded using the same parameters.
Without going into massive detail, I do not believe any Local Authority in England (Wales is different) is allocating funding specifically for library upgrade and class furniture. At a school level the school is able to decide how the gross total budget is split up and used, so the school is deciding priorities. Whilst class furniture might be essential, it is quite likely that it is a nice to have as replacements, certainly library upgrade is a nice to have but not essential.
So I would be questioning whether the school is really being totally honest with you as a parent or are they making a big song and dance about it in the hope that the parents will cough up the money for these extras they would like but cannot afford.
Many schools are suffering financially but at the end of the day the school leadership team and governing board are responsible for setting a budget which uses the available funding, not getting the begging bowl out when the figures do not add up. If the school has less pupils than they did last year then that will impact their funding by approximately £3K to £6K per pupil depending whereabouts you are in the country but schools have to make the funding stretch or make adjustments, like staff reductions to balance the income to expenditure.

KittyVonCatsington Tue 04-Apr-17 20:52:12

It largely depends on Pupil Premium as well and how many pupils a school has, who are classed as PP. If a school has fewer PP pupils, they will get substantially less money.

Also, if the school is an Academy, they have to pay for everything out of their budget, including Support Staff pensions etc. and this will be different for every Academy as to how many, how senior etc. It will also depend on how many teachers they have on higher pay scales=more money going out but the same or less coming in.

Building Rents etc.?? They vary place to place.

There are so many factors why one school would not be suffering as much as another. I wish it was as easy as each school getting the exact amount of money they each need.

It is a serious failing of the Government's policy that schools are considered a one size fits all area and although 'ringfencing' a budget sounds good for an election, it means the budgets won't rise with inflation and higher costs. So schools are getting the same amount they got 5 years ago-but this doesn't help when everything is more expensive now.

You can see why School's favour cheap NQTs and HLTAs now, eh?

KittyVonCatsington Tue 04-Apr-17 20:56:07

but at the end of the day the school leadership team and governing board are responsible for setting a budget which uses the available funding, not getting the begging bowl out when the figures do not add up.

No, schools themselves don't 'set' a budget. They get given a sum at the start of the academic year and have to assign it accordingly. If the sums don't fit for all that they need, they can't magic money from somewhere. Therefore cuts have to be made and the begging bowl may well come out. Plenty of schools are starting on minus figures before the 1st Sept even starts.

KittyVonCatsington Tue 04-Apr-17 20:59:40

Sorry admission, that came out a bit ruder than I intended. I just meant that asking parents for donations for furniture is not necessarily down to poor budgeting and planning in the current climate

admission Wed 05-Apr-17 11:46:13

Sorry, my experience as a Chair of governors and of helping other school governing bodies says that schools that are in deficit are responsible for that deficit, nobody else. It is about the governing board not making the difficult decisions to have a balanced budget, which a responsible governing board by law has to do.

Whether morally the required decisions to set a balanced budget are the right decisions for the pupils in the school is another very different argument.

To many schools are unwilling to change what they have always done and think outside the box to manage the funding the school receives. So in the OP's post why does the library need an upgrade? If that is about new books, do they really need the new books this year or could they last another year? If it is about making the library look the part, do they really need to repaint it or is that something the site manager could do in the summer holidays rather than get in contractors. What is the school spending on ICT equipment and have they thought through how the ICT spend could be used in conjunction with upgrading the library.
Bottom line, it is very difficult to argue with the minister responsible that schools are in real financial difficulty when we are talking library upgrades rather than the basic of not having enough money to run a school as they cannot afford the minimum number of teachers, which is the case in quite a few schools around the country.

2014newme Thu 06-Apr-17 13:23:13

I would question how your friend knows their school is fine?
Just because she hasn't had a letter doest mean they are fine

lougle Thu 06-Apr-17 13:49:54

I agree wholeheartedly with admission. As a Chair of Governors, hearing that a school is 'facing budget cuts' and they can't upgrade their library doesn't cut it for me. There will be schools that have to reduce their teacher numbers, increase class sizes, go without essential equipment. Those are the schools which will struggle. Library upgrades are 'nice to haves'.

Kitty "No, schools themselves don't 'set' a budget. They get given a sum at the start of the academic year and have to assign it accordingly. If the sums don't fit for all that they need, they can't magic money from somewhere."

Schools absolutely do set a budget. I sat in my finance meeting last night, as it happens, and we went through our school's proposed budget, line by line. The only thing that is set is the amount of money that is given by the LA. It is down to the governors to approve the budget for each year and monitor the spending as the year progresses.

It simply isn't an option for schools to set deficit budgets, so they have to make the budget they have work. That means hard decisions about resource allocation. If the school and the governors don't manage the budget, the LA will step in and take over, then the school and the governors lose all control over how the budget is run.

bojorojo Thu 06-Apr-17 15:41:33

There has been a reallocation of budgets from areas that have been well resourced to areas that haven't been. My LA says it is getting more money but we have been underfunded since formula funding began. The LA says it will increase school budgets but is keeping quite a large proportion back for SEN funding where we have nearly twice the number of statements than the average LA and neighbouring LAs.

I think schools with higher funding have come to rely on that, understandably, and no doubt would have expected to refurbish a library or buy classroom furniture. Sadly we have only dreamt of these things for years!

It is correct that schools set their budget. The formula determines what they get. PP funding is targeted so woe betide any school that cannot demonstrate it has spent it on PP children and improving their outcomes. Ofsted are all over this funding for obvious reasons. There are plenty of Governors of schools who put off hard decisions and blame the LA.

KittyVonCatsington Thu 06-Apr-17 22:40:56

It simply isn't an option for schools to set deficit budgets, so they have to make the budget they have work. That means hard decisions about resource allocation. If the school and the governors don't manage the budget, the LA will step in and take over, then the school and the governors lose all control over how the budget is run.

This is exactly what I was saying so I agree with you! I refer to the word 'set' by being that they don't get to decide on what funds they have available to them but instead have to 'apply' the budget provided and make difficult decisions as a result (and I am a Governor too by the way)

mrz Sat 08-Apr-17 06:15:10

*"*^*To many schools are unwilling to change what they have always done*^*"* like pay teachers and keep buildings safe?

Kymble Sat 08-Apr-17 08:32:40

If you think your child's school won't be affected, do some research. Even schools that appear to be 'winners' under the new formula, will face cuts in real terms. The increases in employers contributions to National Insurance and pensions will not be funded. The impact of teachers' 1% pay rise, inflation and rising pupil numbers will also lead to cuts. ALL state school parents in England should be worried!

Lucycat Sat 08-Apr-17 08:56:45

It is absolutely not the case that areas which were underfunded before will be getting more money under the proposed NFF- our LA was 3rd bottom and yes we aren't in an area of huge deprivation but we will now be BOTTOM of the table. What that means for us is yet more redundancies, A level subjects being cut, class sizes at A level of 27, all other classes at 34, early closing on one day a week- in a leaking, not fit for purpose 1960s building. Cuts are made at £1000 here and there in an attempt to save money so we don't go under.

We still have to heat and light the school, pay staff and attempt to provide a broad and balanced curriculum but it won't happen

We are a large, well respected secondary in Cheshire East 😡

Kymble Sat 08-Apr-17 09:01:08

Same here, Lucycat. Right in the lowest 10% and staying there. Parents protesting can make a difference here - there are millions of us and we are all voters!

Whileweareonthesubject Sat 08-Apr-17 09:18:45

My school is in an 'affluent ' area. Except that the demographic us changing and the reality is that this is really not the case any longer. We've always had a less generous income because of this. Under the new formula, we will benefit but only by a limited amount as there is a cap on the increase. We are also facing higher staff costs due to pay rises and ni changes. Our pupil premium numbers are low - not because people are not in need, but because they won't apply for the relevant benefits so we are trying to support their children educationally on less income. It is not sustainable. Our building is old and in need of major work, just to keep it safe. This year we have had to cut back maintenance to just 'health and safety ' required jobs. Resources have been cut to the bare minimum. Next year we will have to lose at least one teacher and some support staff. The year after? Who knows. I suspect support staff will have to go entirely. After that I really don't know what will happen.

lougle Sat 08-Apr-17 09:37:21

"mrz

"^*To many schools are unwilling to change what they have always done^*" like pay teachers and keep buildings safe?"

I don't think anyone is saying it's easy. When capital budgets were slashed by 80%, that was really tough. But schools need to consider their staffing at every opportunity, looking for ways of reducing their costs. For example, when a UPS member of staff moves on, consider recruiting a Mainscale teacher to reduce the staff costs. Of course you need to maintain your skill mix, but you can't sustain a workforce where 80% of your staff are UPS, for example. It's that sort of management that schools can use to reduce their strain on the budget.

mrz Sat 08-Apr-17 12:19:01

And if teachers don't move on?

noblegiraffe Sat 08-Apr-17 12:22:10

There's a maths conference today and I've seen on twitter that some schools are cutting Further Maths a-level because they can't afford the small teaching groups.

A financially sound decision, but an educationally disastrous one. As are many decisions being taken at the moment through lack of choice.

bojorojo Sat 08-Apr-17 12:44:50

Around me, schools have pooled resources for FM teaching. There is always a way if you are creative with the timetable. I often read on MN that schools have class sizes of , 20, 22, 24 in a class in primary - ie below 30. How can they survive financially on that? There will have to be cuts where schools have low class numbers because 20 in a class is just not realistic when lots of others have 30. We always work on 30 to make ends meet.

Lots of schools are too small but C of E will not federate with community schools. Federation is the smart way forward and can make schools financially viable. I do know East Cheshire has problems, but many areas just do not look at how to change and manage. The same applies to small comprehensives. You cannot afford a full range of A levels at small schools. You have to see what you can work out with another school.

noblegiraffe Sat 08-Apr-17 13:16:18

You cannot afford a full range of A levels at small schools.

My school is a large school and already ships in students from other local schools for further maths, however the numbers are still not in the range that makes SLT happy. It's easy to say 'just be creative with the timetable' but it's hard enough to write a secondary timetable for a single school without having to take the sixth form teaching for other schools into account as well.

bojorojo Sat 08-Apr-17 14:10:22

Of course I totally understand that, but it may be the only way out of the problem. As your school does it, noble, it clearly is possible. I am not convinced every area considers what can be achieved by schools working together. There are also greater problems with the myriad of management styles in academies, community, C of E and free schools to name just a few. Schools often work with colleges of FE but not each other. It is critical to do this in the primary sector especially when some primary (4-11) have only 60 or so children. I know of two infant schools, 2 miles apart, two Heads and barely 60 children between the two of them. One is C of E and won't amalgamate. Just stupid!

noblegiraffe Sat 08-Apr-17 14:13:57

My school does it with other schools within our MAT, I'm not sure how that sort of co-operation would work across schools not within a MAT. I can't imagine it working with our local college who we are in competition with for students.

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