One third of schools becoming unviable

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Thousands of small primary and secondary schools are becoming financially unviable, says the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). Unless new funding becomes available, schools with fewer than 600 pupils “will not be able to support their teaching infrastructure.”

Roughly 30 per cent of primaries (5,037) in England have fewer than 300 pupils. More than 2,000 of those have fewer than 100. Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the ASCL, says that in the next academic year such small schools “would not be financially viable”. His claims come following the postponement of the publication of the government’s new national funding formula, which is now due to be introduced in 2018-2019. Although the new funding scheme is designed to introduce a fairer system of distributing funding across the UK, the delay means that many schools – particularly rural primaries – will struggle to balance the books next year.

"The big, big issue is because [the Department for Education] is not doing anything until 2018, they really need to do something for schools who are going to fall off a cliff financially or run into a wall in 2017," Trobe said.

The ASCL advises that schools could alleviate funding concerns by sharing specialist teachers and support services with their neighbours.

"They are going to find it extremely difficult to provide a full curriculum and maintain the support staff infrastructure needed to run the school,” Trobe cautioned.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: "In reality the schools budget has been protected and in 2016-17 totals over £40bn, the highest ever on record.

"The government's fairer funding proposals will ensure that areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system."

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