Last reviewed 18 September 2023

A new report, Cost-of-living Crisis: Impact on Schools — School Provision, highlights that 49% of primary schools, 48% of special schools and 41% of secondary schools had or were expecting an in-year deficit in 2022/23.

Available at www.nfer.ac.uk, the 53-page report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) notes that schools are only expecting the situation to worsen next year.

The research also suggests that more than half of primary schools are asking parents for extra funds to accommodate cost-of-living pressures.

In the study, conducted in collaboration with ASK Research and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, NFER asked more than 2500 senior leaders and teachers in mainstream schools, and more than 100 in special schools, a series of questions to understand the impacts of these pressures on their establishments.

NFER Research Director and report co-author, Jenna Julius, said: “In the short-term, schools need greater financial support to help meet the additional direct expenses associated with the increased cost-of-living such as energy and school meal bills. Teachers and senior leaders, particularly in the most disadvantaged schools, report their learning provision has been negatively impacted by cuts being made in response to increased costs.”

For example, 62% of primary schools, 43% of secondary and 41% of special schools report cutting spending on resources such as printed worksheets, materials for art and science and library books.

Responding to the report, Niamh Sweeney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), pointed out that the high rate of inflation is eating into school budgets.

She also referred to NEU analysis which indicates that SEND funding should be over £3 billion higher if Education Health and Care Plans were funded at the same rate as in 2015–16.

“Ignoring the issue will not make it go away,” she concluded.