Head teachers speak out on London’s school funding crisis

  • By Gemma Kappala-R...

London head teachers are grappling with a funding crisis that will damage the quality of education schools can provide, research commissioned by London Councils has revealed.

Talking Heads, a survey of nearly 400 London head teachers and senior school leaders conducted for London Councils by TES, The Education Company and Shift Learning, shows that increased costs due to a range of new and escalating pressures, such as growing pupil numbers, additional pensions and national insurance contributions and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, are forcing head teachers to make tough decisions to balance school budgets. 

The Talking Heads report lays bare the negative impact of insufficient funding on teacher and teaching assistant numbers, curriculum options, learning resources such as IT equipment and textbooks, and the upkeep of school buildings.

70 per cent of London school leaders who responded to the survey have already experienced budget cuts, 10 per cent more than those in the rest of England. 91 per cent are expecting their school budget to decrease over the next two years. 

More than 80 per cent believe that the quality of their school’s environment will be harmed by further cuts and more than 70 per cent feel that pupil outcomes will be negatively affected.

The research also shows that:

  • London head teachers rank managing budgets as the number one challenge they face. Outside of London managing budgets is the second highest challenge, indicating that cost pressures are more significant in London’s schools than elsewhere.
  • Only 40 per cent of London schools believe they are prepared for future cuts, with confidence much lower in primary schools compared to secondary.
  • 47 per cent of secondary school head teachers in London have already reduced the breadth of their curriculum to deal with funding cuts.
  • 70 per cent of primary schools have already reduced the number of teaching assistants they employ. 
  • More than 70 per cent of London leaders believe that funding reductions will result in negative outcomes for pupils, with Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils most likely to be affected.
  • In the next two years, two-thirds (65 per cent) of London secondary schools are planning to cut teacher numbers. 

Cllr Peter John OBE, Deputy Chair of London Councils and Executive member with responsibility for schools, said:

“Our research paints a bleak picture of the financial challenges threatening the future of London’s education system from the perspective of the head teachers and school leaders who have worked to transform the capital’s schools into the best in the country. 

“Head teachers fear that young Londoners will not be able to receive a top-quality education in the years ahead due to increased costs and inadequate funding for schools.

“The UK is on course to leave the European Union in 2019 and ensuring young people have the skills to succeed and contribute to the growth of the economy has never been more important. 

“We’re calling on Government to recognise that schools are facing significant additional cost pressures, and to protect school funding in real terms to address these pressures. This would give head teachers the freedom to focus on helping children to realise their potential at school so they respond positively to the challenges and opportunities that spring from Brexit.”

Click here to read the full report.


Key quotes from London head teachers gathered as part of the survey:

“We’re already on a shoestring as it is. Any more cuts, it’s going to be staffing, and that’s going to have an impact, and it’s going to be a negative impact. Our results may well dip as a result of it.” 
--- Head teacher, Primary Academy, Ofsted Grade 3, Outer London

“I cannot see any way other than that teaching and learning is going to suffer and we’ll have to just absolutely slash the number of adults or shut the school.” 
--- Head teacher, Primary LA-maintained, Ofsted Grade 1, Inner London

“There needs to be significant increase in funding coming into schools, not just the realignment of the pot.” 
--- Head teacher, Secondary Academy, Ofsted Grade 3, Outer London

“This year is the full year of the pay increase for teaching staff, pay increases for support staff, pensions, and pensions contributions, national insurance contributions. We’ve got the apprenticeship levy coming in, in just over a month’s time, so there are considerable pressures on the budget and so it’s going to get worse because our costs are going up.”
--- Head teacher, Secondary Academy, Ofsted Grade 2, Outer London

“We’ve cut everything that can be cut. And there isn’t anything else. We are genuinely at a position where if there was a significant cut to our budget, it would be a case of looking at losing members of staff, but I honestly don’t know if we could afford that because there’s no money for redundancy. It’s creating a massive amount of budgetary pressure.”
--- Head teacher, Primary Academy, Ofsted Grade 2, Outer London

Notes to Editors:

• London Councils represents London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London. It is a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all of its member authorities regardless of political persuasion. It also runs a number of direct services for member authorities including the Freedom Pass, Taxicard and Health Emergency Badge. It also runs an independent parking appeals service and a pan-London grants programme for voluntary organisations.

• To gather data for this report, The Education Company and TES broadcast an online survey to schools across the UK in January and February 2017. Responses were received from 399 school leaders in London, with 32 London boroughs being represented. 264 responses were received from the rest of England. In-depth follow-up interviews were then conducted with 48 London head teachers from a broad range of London schools by Shift Learning. 

• Head teachers’ concerns as reflected in this report are borne out by research published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Their figures show that without further investment on top of the manifesto commitments already made by Government, funding per pupil is set to shrink by 2.8 per cent between 2017-18 and 2021-22. On top of existing pressures, the IFS identify a real-terms, per-pupil cut of 7 per cent between 2015-16 and 2021-22.