8 in 10 schools and academies struggling to balance their books

Balancing the budget is becoming ‘significantly more difficult’ for 78 per cent of schools and academies, new research has found.


A study of 265 school leaders* by HCSS Education, a leading education finance specialist, found that 81 per cent of academies and 76 per cent of schools are finding that managing their finances is becoming considerably more problematic.


When asked what their main budgetary pressures were, increasing staffing on-costs came out on top as the main reason for both schools and academies (90 per cent).


Funding pressures (80 per cent) followed by falling pupil numbers (26 per cent) were the next two reasons why both schools and academies are finding it difficult to balance their budgets.


Yet, despite finding budgets more difficult to manage, it was surprising to discover that 13 per cent of maintained schools and academies do not have 3 to 5-year budget plans in place. This might be down to a lack of support, as a third of schools and academies say they lack the appropriate support they need with budget planning and forecasting.


The survey was conducted as part of HCSS Education’s Balancing the Books report, which takes an insightful look into the budgeting issues facing schools and academies and the effect this has on the education sector. It explores whether school leaders have financial strategies and support in place, why deficits occur and what tends to lie behind this when it happens. It also looks at how these issues can be addressed.


Howard Jackson, head of education and founder of HCSS Education, said: “With increasing costs, uncertainties over future funding and the ever-present pressure on school leaders to deliver high standards all having a significant effect on the education sector, we wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the financial issues facing schools and academies.


“Based on the findings of our study, we can see just how difficult balancing the budget has become. It is clearly a major concern to those responsible for school spending as the sector is struggling to cope with available funding and rising costs such as teacher pay and pensions.


“Robust budget forecasting and planning is therefore key. Fortunately there are a number of financial management tools available that have been specifically designed for the education sector to help school leaders effectively forecast and manage their budgets.”


For more information, please visit http://www.hcsseducation.co.uk/blog/balancing-books