There is a school funding crisis in the UK that has become more and more evident in recent years.

2020, the year the global COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, is also a year in which the UK government pledged £350m to bail out schools which have struggled with a lack of funding for many years.

The problems in recent history first began to emerge in 2010 with the coalition government, but have only gotten worse since. Things are so bad in fact, that the lack of funding for state schools is comparable to how things were back in the 80s.

This school funding crisis is one of the main reasons behind a lot of current educational issues including the danger of lowering teacher retention rates and the lack of opportunity surrounding language-learning for British children. The rise of academies is another cause for concern.

The effects of the funding crisis run deep in the education system, and teachers are facing a lot of problems including working with reduced curricula and large workloads.

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The Funding Crisis

Before we get into the numerous effects the school funding crisis has had on every level of the education system in the UK, we’re going to outline the situation with the important details.

The lack of funding for schools isn’t a recent issue in the UK, and dates back several years.

UK parliament
UK government has neglected the Education sector with a lack of funding

Overview

The last time the UK faced a similar magnitude of funding crisis as it is now was back in the 1980s.

This current school funding crisis started with the coalition government in 2010 and is as bad now as it has ever been.

While there was an initial surge of investment in education in 2010, the same amount of funding was only matched up until 2015 when it started to decrease to the low point where it is now.

As a result, the education system has taken a hit and problems such as limited curricula, overworked teachers, and poor teacher retention rates are on the rise.

With regards to the recent situation surrounding the global pandemic, although the government has pledged £350m as a ‘catch up operation’ to save schools from the brink, many schools still haven’t been reimbursed for the safety measures put into place to manage the outbreak of COVID-19.

To compound this issue, there are an increasing number of pupils attending schools and a decreasing amount of people wanting to become teachers or stay in their current positions in education.

Effects on Schools

Stack of books
Less funding has meant less subjects in schools and more narrow curricula

The school funding crisis has had an immense impact on schools around the country and the education system in general.

The teachers and students have borne the brunt of the limited funding, and have had to deal with sub optimal resources and reduced curricula to name just a few things.

While schools are adapting and trying to allocate the limited funds evenly amongst different subjects and departments, teachers are dealing with more work than ever and lack of financial incentive to stay in the profession.

Limited Curriculum

The curriculum of schools is one of the first things to take a hit with the school funding issues, and has been affected in many institutions.

Schools have less money to spend on basic resources such as teaching materials, so it makes it very challenging to maintain a broad curriculum with a variety of different subjects available to the pupils.

It also means that the way the curriculum is taught has been affected for many schools, since they don’t have a great deal of money to spend on the latest technology for the classrooms.

This is something which greatly affects both sides of the education system.

Teachers don’t get to benefit from time-saving technology tools that can ease their workload, and students don’t get to experiment with engaging software and interactive ways of learning.

This can have a knock-on effect on student motivation, especially given that these days most pupils have a mobile phone and other forms of technology they use on a daily basis outside of school.

Attention spans are decreasing, and it’s taking more technology and engaging ways of teaching subject material to keep pupils interested and curious.

Lack of Opportunities for Students

Due to cuts made to certain subjects as a result of limited funding, there is a lack of opportunities for students.

Some subjects have traditionally been cut more than others, due to their perceived lower level of importance than other subjects.

Languages, design, and music are a few examples of such subjects which have been cut from many school curricula in recent times.

As a result, we’ve seen all-time low figures regarding British children learning foreign languages which can be seen as something hindering their future success in the global market.

As well as minimising the opportunities for what pupils can learn at schools, these subject cuts have placed emphasis on what are seen as the most important subjects to study like maths and science.

This diminishes the perceived importance of subjects such as the arts, which can dissuade pupils from pursuing further education or careers in these fields.

Teacher Morale

Another significant impact that the school funding crisis has had on schools across the UK is that on teacher morale and retention.

With growing numbers of pupils attending school and more and more teachers frustrated with low pay and threatening to leave the profession, the morale of educators is lower than ever.

Questions over teacher well being have been raised in recent years, and rightly so, since workloads are increasing as well as student numbers. Yet the pay isn’t rising accordingly, so the financial incentive isn’t as it should be.

Without proper support systems and financial incentives, teachers have little reason to stay on at their jobs other than the passion that got them into the profession in the first place.

While it’s fine to say that passion for the job should be enough, teachers have to work around the clock and shape the youth of the country into upstanding citizens, which deserves recognition in the form of reasonable financial compensation.

What’s Being Done to Resolve the Crisis?

English pounds
Government have thrown money at the problem, but come up a little short

Now that we’ve explored the main causes and effects of the school funding crisis, it’s time to turn our attention to what’s being done to solve it.

Catch-up Fund

The biggest news regarding school funding in the UK this year concerns the catch-up fund, which is a figure of £350m pledged by prime minister Boris Johnson to help schools out during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

This sounds like a lot of money which should in theory provide schools with the resources they need to make it through the pandemic.

However, so far there is still around 40% of this money which is unaccounted for and yet to be allocated.

This makes the pledge seem like a deceitful move on the government’s part, although it remains to be seen how the situation will play out in the coming months.

£211m of the bail out fund has been invested and allocated into schools and colleges, to be used on staff and catch-up plans, with other amounts reserved for language programmes and the NTP tution partners which offer subsidized tuition.

Pay Rise for Teachers

Of the funding promised by the UK government to state schools for next year (2021), more than half of it will be allocated towards teacher’s pay.

While this is great news for teachers who will finally get better financial compensation for the hard work they do, it means that the funding for state schools will still be less than ideal.

Plus there’s all the costs that will have to be dealt with concerning the effects of the global pandemic, which could come from this already depleted budget.

The acknowledgement of the hard work of teachers won’t go unnoticed, especially since they’ve had to work in testing conditions this year, but the government’s refusal to prioritise education is going to leave a lot of schools disappointed again and poorly funded.

There are also concerns over the increasing numbers of pupils attending schools which could enter an education system that lacks the proper funding to provide them with the best education possible with an extended curriculum and educational technology tools.

Thoughts of Teachers 

A lobby group called ‘Worth Less?’ whose members are all headteachers and campaigning for better state school funding, have had a few things to say about the latest developments in the school funding crisis.

The group has publicly questioned the budget promises of the government given past events, and have suggested that if the proper funding isn’t provided then the results could be disastrous for the education system.

The group has described the current budget as ‘shoestring’ and they have expressed their concerns regarding the anxiety for teachers about their futures and the potential for cuts with a reduced budget.

As already mentioned, it remains to be seen whether or not the government will follow through with their initial promised funding for education in the UK, and it might not be until 2021 that we find out if they have been true to their word.

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Samuel

Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.