9 out of ten rural schools and academies funded unfairly, says new research

Schools and academies in rural towns and villages are under more intense financial pressure than their urban counterparts according to new research, with 93% of rural-based leaders believing their institution is unfairly funded compared to others across the country.

A study of 142 school leaders* conducted this month by HCSS Education, a leading education finance specialist, found that for two thirds (67%) of schools and academies, managing budgets has become significantly more difficult. For rural school leaders this rises significantly to 81%.

When asked about balancing the books, half of rural schools and academies (49%) admitted to dipping into financial reserves in the past three years compared to a third (34%) based in urban areas.

The vast majority (93%) of school and academy leaders in rural locations also said the current flat funding structure has impacted their pupils, with staffing cuts being the top contributing factor.  Less than two thirds (61%) of leaders in urban schools and academies expressed the same concern.

In a bid to make school and academy funding fairer, the Government has committed to implementing the national funding formula (NFF) from 2018-19. It will see some schools receiving increased funding but others facings cuts. When asked about this, just over half (56%) of school leaders believe the NFF is the most effective way to address financial issues in schools and academies. Over half of countryside schools and academies (56%) anticipicate an increase in funding when the policy is introduced, compared to less than a quarter (24%) in urban settings.

Howard Jackson, head of education and founder of HCSS Education, said: “School and academy leaders across the country are really feeling the effects of increasing costs and uncertainties over future funding, but our research shows that this is all the more profound for those in our rural towns and villages. Around half of them have experienced a budget deficit in the past three years and many believe budgetary pressures are impacting their pupils.

“We spoke to leaders from all corners of the country and worryingly the vast majority said they were concerned about the future finances of their school or academy. At the same time, there are steps budget managers can take to forecast robustly and plan ahead effectively. To make this easier, there are a number of financial management tools available that have been specifically designed for the education sector to help school leaders effectively manage their budgets.”

HCSS Education has released this new research to mark the launch of its innovative new accounting software which is currently being used by over 120 schools and academies across the UK. Launched earlier this month, HCSS Accounting is the first completely online accounting package designed solely for the education sector. The cloud-based software allows users access from anywhere, at anytime, and it’s been developed to be extremely easy to use, so no prior accounting training is needed.

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