CPD spending slashed as school budget deficits continue to rise

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

The school funding crisis continues. Maintained schools are facing £233 million of deficit budgets, while year-on-year staff CPD spending is down by 12 per cent. Pete Henshaw reports

CPD budgets have fallen by 12 per cent across England’s secondary schools in the space of a year as funding pressures continue to bite.

It comes as separate figures revealed that the proportion of maintained secondary schools running a financial deficit has risen dramatically since 2014 and that a majority of secondary schools – academy and maintained – are spending more than their income.

School deficits

The analysis of school balance sheets in England has been published by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

It reveals that 30 per cent of maintained secondary schools were running a financial deficit in 2017/18. This figure is up from eight per cent in 2014 and the average deficit stands at £483,500.

One in 10 maintained schools has a deficit that is more than 10 per cent of their total income, while the proportion of special schools in deficit has nearly doubled since 2014 and now stands at 10 per cent. The average special school deficit is £225,300.

Deficit figures are not available for individual academy schools. However, the report also scrutinises school in-year balances (from 2016/17), finding that at secondary level 50 per cent of academies were spending more than their income compared to 64 per cent of maintained schools.

The EPI concludes: “The propensity to have an in-year deficit is lower in academies in multi-academy trusts than for local authority schools. This could be because of the ability of academy trusts to move part of their budgets between schools.”

The report – School Revenue Balances in England – published last week, also reveals that 34.1 per cent of maintained secondary schools are running financial surpluses that the Department for Education (DfE) deem to be “excessive”.

In total, the analysis revealed £233 million of deficit balances in the maintained sector for 2017/18 compared to £1.794 billion of surpluses. Of the surplus total, the DfE considers £580 million to be “excessive”.

The EPI concludes: “In theory, nearly four-fifths of local authority school deficits could be eliminated if local authorities were able to redistribute reserves from excessive balances within the authority into deficit balances.

“However, in practice, over half of the ‘excessive’ balances are already committed by the schools to specific projects, and given the priority which the government attaches to school autonomy, there would likely be serious policy challenges involved in trying to reallocate such surpluses.”

Jon Andrews, report author and EPI’s deputy head of research, said: “These statistics highlight again the financial pressure that schools in England are under, particularly at secondary level. But they also show that a large number of schools are maintaining significant surpluses.

“In fact, by the DfE’s definition, nearly a quarter of a billion pounds is in accounts deemed ‘excessive’ and uncommitted to any specific expenditure. The challenge for government, local authorities, and school leaders, is whether that money should now be redistributed.”

CPD spending falls

Elsewhere this week, figures show that a majority of state schools spent less on staff development in 2017 than they did in 2016. Overall spending is down 12 per cent.

The figures also reveal huge variation between areas, with secondary schools in Bury spending an average of £164 per teacher while those in Barking and Dagenham spend £1,045.

Nationally, state secondary schools in England spent 0.40 per cent of their budgets – or £378 per teacher – on CPD. This compares to 0.66 per cent and £685 per teacher in primary schools.

The annual figures are published by CPD charity the Teacher Development Trust in collaboration with education data company SchoolDash.

Previously, there has been a 60 per cent rise in secondary school CPD spending between 2012 and 2016. This is the first time that the annual figures have shown a year-on-year fall in CPD spending.

In response to the data, the TDT has launched a free CPD Benchmarking Tool to help schools compare their investment in CPD with other schools in their area, or of a similar intake. It will also offer headteachers guidance on how to improve the impact of their CPD spending.

The analysis was conducted by Timo Hannay, founder of SchoolDash, and also produced similar findings relating to primary school CPD spending.

The data also reveals that schools have reduced spending on resources such as library books, stationery, computers and other items in order to try and protect CPD spending.

In a blog post analysing the findings, Mr Hannay argued that the reductions in spending on both CPD and learning resources suggest that budget pressures are to blame.

David Weston, CEO of the Teacher Development Trust, said: “Schools are facing significant funding issues, which are forcing them to spend less on CPD for teachers. This is a great concern, particularly at a time when teacher retention and job satisfaction are big issues. We know that CPD is linked to improved results for pupils, plus better staff morale and retention. The fact that it’s such a postcode lottery for staff as to whether they can access development and training is a worry.

“We urge government and policy-makers to make this a major priority. Clearly, it’s not just what’s being spent but also how money and time are being used and we need a system-wide push to help school leaders use the best, most proven approaches to developing the quality of teaching and support.”


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