School Funding Survey

A survey of Primary Headteachers in Bristol has revealed deep concern about the impact of the reduction in school funding across the city.

Over 60% of the 68 Heads surveyed said that their school’s current financial situation was “Critical, Very Serious or Serious”. Even more concern was expressed when they were asked about their forecasts of their financial position in three years’ time, with 92% expecting finances to be “Critical, Very Serious or Serious”.




 11 %

Very Serious


 32 %



 18 %

Worrying but coping


 35 %



   4 %

How serious is your school's current financial situation?




 31 %

Very Serious


 37 %



 25 %

Worrying but coping


   7 %



   0 %

What do you forecast as your financial position in 3 years?



In the past 12 months more than half of the Heads surveyed have reduced the number of support staff, increased the workload of existing staff and cut spending on IT, equipment or books and training.


In the next 12 months, more than half of heads will be adding cuts to pastoral care, building maintenance, reduction of school trips and visits, and reductions to leadership capacity. 54% of heads expect to be unable to replace teaching staff who leave. Over one-third of Heads think they will face making redundancies.


Have you, or do you expect you will have to take any of the following actions…?

In the Past 12 months

In the Next 12 months

Reducing funding for sport



Reducing the range of the curriculum on offer






Reducing funding for music or art



Cuts in pastoral or advice services



Cuts in building and/or playground maintenance



Reducing leadership capacity



Reducing funding for educational visits or trips



Non-replacement of teaching staff



Increasing workload/responsibilities of existing staff



Cuts in resources, such as IT equipment or books



Reducing the budget for professional teacher development



Non-replacement of support staff




The reduction in funding   has come as several factors have arrived simultaneously to turn a problem into a crisis in Bristol’s schools.

•   The recently announced plans to revise school funding from 2018-19 by introducing a new national funding formula will cut funding to the vast majority    of Bristol schools. In the Primary sector, the Government’s own figures show a cut of £1.9 million in the city, which could be up to £70,000 cash cut per primary school.

•   The Education Services Grant, used by local authorities for school improvement and special needs pupils and to plan for school places, is reducing by a further £1.8 million in Bristol.  There are proposals for schools’ budgets to be reduced further to meet these costs, which could be up to another £30,000 cash cut per primary school. Per pupil funding through the Education Services Grant will reduce from £113 in 2014-15 to £15 in 2017-18 in Bristol.

•   In addition, schools with Special Education Needs pupils requiring one-to-one support have seen a reduction in ‘top up’ funding available of up to 50%, leaving them to meet these costs of high needs pupils from their school budget.

•   The Government’s ‘Apprenticeship Levy’ will, from 1st April, result in most schools paying an additional 0.5% of their payroll costs, which for larger primaries in Bristol could be £10,000.

•   Increased National Insurance and pension costs came into force last year, with no increase in funding; this added up to £75,000 in costs for primary schools.

•   Using inflation assumptions from the National Audit Office, real terms reductions of over £200,000 per primary school will occur for most in Bristol by 2020.


Many Heads expressed their serious concerns about the reduction in funding of Special Education Needs in Bristol. The council has drastically reduced the amount available to schools to support pupils with high needs and disabilities, to clawback a £3million overspend. The following are quotes from Heads responding to the survey;


“Cuts to SEN finding has had a significant impact both in terms of the cost to provide support staff and support services”.

“…with the changes to SEND funding, the most vulnerable pupils will be hit hardest by the lack of support both internally and externally”.

“Very serious concerns about the ability for our schools and others in Bristol to meet the needs of those pupils with identified SEN under current funding arrangements”.


“It is the lack of SEN funding that is hitting us hardest. I am stretching existing support staff to cover these most vulnerable children and so am making cuts to interventions as I do not have the staffing levels to run them”.

“I am very concerned for the well-being of vulnerable pupils, especially those with SEN needs”.

“We are particularly concerned, and have been for some time, at the limited funding for children with SEND. Our school currently has a high number of SEND children with complex and vulnerable family situations. Pressure on both teaching staff but also senior leaders is building to an untenable level. We are also picking up more complex & challenging safeguarding issues as the threshold for social care intervention appears to get higher. Staff sickness has increased considerably”.

“Cuts to SEND top up funding are causing extreme difficulty and making it virtually impossible to provide adequate support”.


Laurence Pitt, Chair of the Bristol Primary Heads Association commented that

“It is inevitable that the size and pace of these cuts to funding will impact negatively on education. Levels of attainment are under threat and staff are being put under pressure that may lead them to leave the profession. The significant improvement in outcomes for children in Bristol schools in recent years is under severe threat, and it is the most vulnerable children that are under the greatest threat.

The government is changing the funding formula and making funding available for free schools and grammar schools, but as our survey shows, unless the Government provides more basic funding for Bristol primary schools, head teachers will be forced to cut teachers, support staff, and key resources that help children learn.

Headteachers and Governors need the support of our parents to convince the Government that more basic funding for our schools is urgently needed.

Bristol City Council has faced tough decisions with regard to previous overspending of SEN money, but the decision to reduce funding so drastically has put many schools and Heads in an untenable position”.



For further information please contact Rob Davies, PHAB Business Manager, by email at