How can it be that schools now have more money to spend than ever before?
Everything is being cut, and yet it seems school finances are on the up, which appears to be a contradiction. How can this possibly be? In this short piece I’ll try and explain.
Local authority and academy schools are funded by the state (either through local authorities or directly) on the basis of a fixed amount of money per child (which varies according to the age of the child).
Although the number of children in primary schools has now reached its peak and started to decline slightly, the number of children in secondary school is still growing and will continue to grow for a few more years yet. Indeed, the number of children in school will continue to be way above the number that was in schools 10 years ago, for years to come, since the decline in the primary school population is rather modest.
As a result, schools are getting more money than they have had in the past, simply because the money each school gets is based on the number of children in the school.
At the same time, we have a second factor: the shortage of teachers which is already noticeable and is getting worse. And that’s interesting because teacher salaries account for between two thirds and three quarters of the money schools receive (depending on the type of school).
Even more problematic for schools is the fact that we are now seeing headlines such as “Supply teacher crisis cannot be ignored.” The number of supply teachers willing to move from school to school dropped dramatically in the covid crisis, and has not recovered. A lot of supply teachers found work very hard to come by during the pandemic, and have now found themselves other occupations.
Indeed, we recently had the headline “Schools have started to pre-book supply teachers and teaching assistants amid staffing shortages, regardless if they’re needed or not.” Which again makes the procurement of supply teaching staff even harder for most schools which cannot afford to book supply teachers in advance.
Together, this means that although schools are in a teaching crisis, they are at the same time actually building up financial reserves because they are spending less on salaries.
And the situation is building all the time. At present official figures show that 15% of teachers leave within the first year, 25% within three years and 40% after a decade – and those numbers are increasing.
Put together this means that the teacher shortage is worsening, which means many schools are spending less on teacher salaries and have more money for resources.
What’s more because senior manages in schools are perfectly well aware of what is happening, and they know that if they don’t have a teacher to cover a class they (the senior managers) have to step in, which is generally not what they want. Insted they are gradually re-designing how they teach, to cope with larger classes and a declining workforce.
This then is the new reality: more money for schools, but a smaller percentage of that funding being spent on schools.
As a result of all this, companies that have products or services that allow teachers to teach larger classes, (such as having pupils or students working on computers in larger rooms), are doing well. Their products are exactly what schools need now.
Of course, some schools, particularly those that have never found it hard to recruit, are not yet facing a teaching crisis, and those in charge of such schools can occasionally be heard to say that “there is no teacher crisis”.
But for many schools it is a real issue, and solutions are being sought. However because the image of more and more pupils and students spending more and more time at computer terminals or watching lessons on video, is not something that benefits either the government or the teacher unions, this issue is not being mentioned.
If you’d like to discuss how you can best advertise your products or services to schools in this new climate we’re always happy to help. Just call 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk