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Proportion of English secondary schools in deficit almost trebles

Proportion of English secondary schools in deficit almost trebles
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The proportion of local government-run secondary schools in England with a deficit has nearly trebled in three years, according to a study.

The analysis by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) suggests more than one-quarter of secondaries are in the red, with schools in the south-west the most likely to be in deficit.

The research, published on Friday, comes as concerns about a squeeze on budgets continue to mount.

Ministers have insisted more money is going into schools, although Damian Hinds, the education secretary, acknowledged last week that funding was “tight”.

The EPI study analysed the balance sheets and budgets of 1,136 secondary and 13,404 primary schools in England over seven years.

It said the proportion of local council-run secondaries in deficit fell from 14.3% in 2010-11 to 8.8% in 2013-14.

But between then and 2016-17, the proportion increased to 26.1%.

The study noted that the region with the highest proportion of local authority secondary schools in deficit was the south-west, with 34.9% in 2016-17, while the lowest was the east of England, with 17.5%.

Last year, 33% were in deficit in Yorkshire and the Humber, 28.5% in London, 28% in the east Midlands, 26.7% in the north-east, 25.1% in the north-west, 24.6% in the West Midlands and 22.8% in the south-east.

The figures do not cover other state schools such as academies.

The proportion of primary schools in deficit across England dropped from 4.4% in 2013-14 to 3.8% the following year, before rising to 7.1% in 2016-17.

David Laws, the executive chairman of the EPI and a former Liberal Democrat schools minister, said: “After 15 years in which school funding has either been growing healthily or has at least been protected from inflationary pressures, school budgets are clearly now being squeezed.

“This is evident from the sharp rise in the number and proportion of local authority schools which are in budget deficit. The trebling of the proportion of maintained secondary schools over recent years is particularly striking.

“Many schools will need to find savings and it will not be easy to do this without reducing staff numbers. Schools and the education department will need to work hard to ensure that reduced staff numbers do not impact on education standards.”

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This report shows that many schools are so cash-strapped they are unable to afford even a meagre pay rise of 1% for their staff next year without having to make further cuts.

“The government has failed to provide schools with funding for pay awards over the course of several years, and this is one of a series of additional cost pressures which have pushed school finances to breaking point. Staffing cuts are not just likely in the future, as the EPI report suggests, but have already taken place in many schools.”



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