More than half of academies in England have lacked enough income to cover their annual expenditure, according to figures revealed by ministers.
An answer to a Parliamentary question shows that the proportion of academy trusts with an annual shortfall doubled in two years.
It comes amid growing warnings about school funding shortages.
But Schools Minister Nick Gibb told MPs on Tuesday that school funding had been protected and was at record levels.
The figures have been revealed in response to a question about academy expenditure from the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Storey.
These figures for 2014-15 show that 53% of stand-alone academies were recorded as having “spent more than their income per year”, up from 42% in the previous year.
Among multi-academy trusts, the proportion spending more than their income was 53%, compared with 25% in the previous year.
This did not necessarily mean that the academies were left in deficit – as they could have been using reserves from previous years.
The ministerial answer says that in 2014-15 only 4% of academy trusts had such a “cumulative deficit”.
But the Liberal Democrats say that it shows a rising problem with inadequate funding, for academies as well as local authority schools.
“Academies are already falling short of cash and this a deep concern to staff and parents. It shows that the system that the Conservatives have created has a shaky foundation,” said Liberal Democrat education spokesman John Pugh.
“The government want to pretend that academies and free schools are the answer to the funding problems but this shows that they’re not immune to the impact of the government slashing education budgets,” he said.
School leaders have been increasingly vocal in concerns about funding levels.
Head teachers have been warning about having to cut school hours, governors have threatened to refuse to sign off budgets and grammar school leaders have said they might have to start charging parents.
Last week, heads were angered when it was revealed that £384m earmarked for converting schools into academies last year had been taken back by the Treasury.
On Tuesday, Nick Gibb, minister for school standards, faced questions from the education select committee on school funding.
He rejected suggestions of underfunding for schools and told MPs that the government had “protected funding at a time when we are dealing with an historic budget deficit”.
Mr Gibb said schools were receiving more than ever before – and that this would rise with a further increase in the school population.
The way that school funding is shared out to individual schools is also being changed – with the launch of a new funding formula.
The schools minister said that the government had “grasped the nettle” on needing to reform a funding system that was often uneven and unfair.
But there was no “silver bullet” on school funding, he said, and switching to a new formula would mean winners and losers.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said these figures were about income and expenditure within the year – rather than overall deficits.
“An academy trust is required by law to balance its budget from each academic financial year to the next,” said the DFE spokeswoman.
“Where the board of an academy is proposing to set a deficit budget for the current financial year, it must notify the Education Funding Agency (EFA).
“Wherever appropriate, the EFA will provide support to academy trusts experiencing financial difficulty but where we find financial mismanagement or irregularities we will not hesitate to take swift action.”
The government is planning an international recruitment drive for specialist maths and physics teachers for the first time since the 1970s.
It is tendering for a £300,000 contract to recruit teachers from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and the US.
It comes as the Migration Advisory Committee recommended widening the number of subjects for which schools could recruit from non-EU countries.
The committee held back from declaring a national shortage of teachers
Head teachers, most of whom have been struggling to recruit in all subjects areas, said the committee’s findings were “very disappointing indeed”.
It found a continuing shortage of teachers in physics and maths and added computer science and Mandarin to the list.
This justified the recruitment of teachers in these subjects from countries outside the European Union, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said.
Placing these subject teachers on the shortage list effectively makes it easier for schools to recruit them, by lifting immigration controls on them.
The DfE’s International Teacher Recruitment Strategy, initially in maths and physics for secondary schools, was revealed when the BBC obtained papers relating to the contract,
It involves employing a private company to “support schools in recruiting qualified teachers in shortage subjects from overseas into English secondary schools”.
The contract talks of recruiting 50 maths and physics teachers initially, but this may be expanded to cover other subjects, the paperwork shows.
It is thought to be the first government-sponsored international recruitment strategy since the mid-1970s, when teachers were also in short supply.
It may be seen as a way of side-stepping any potential impact of new immigration controls attached to Brexit.
Currently, schools recruit teachers from EU countries without any visa restrictions.
Malcolm Trobe, acting general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said it was good that the DfE had recognised this was an issue that needed addressing but added: “Fifty teachers in these key subjects is a fairly low target figure given the scale of the problem faced.”
The finding that there was no occupation-wide shortage of teachers “flies in the face of the evidence”, he said.
“That is the experience of schools up and down the country which are dealing with a full-blown teacher recruitment crisis,” he said.
“School leaders are reporting severe difficulties in recruiting staff in many subjects, and they are deeply concerned about the impact on their pupils.”
The ASCL had called for the shortage occupation list to be extended in order to make it easier for schools to recruit from outside the European Economic Area to help plug these shortfalls, Mr Trobe said.
It was a shame that schools would be denied this opportunity in many subjects, he added.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “While the MAC’s report highlights that there is no shortage of teachers nationally, we recognise there are challenges.
“That is why we are spending more than £1.3bn over this Parliament to help attract the brightest and best into the profession, including offering generous tax-free bursaries and scholarships in key subjects and through our teacher recruitment campaign: Your Future: Their Future.”
The Migration Advisory Committee was asked by then Home Secretary Theresa May to assess whether there was a national shortage of teachers or just a shortage in some subjects.
It comes after trainee teacher targets were missed four years running.
Currently, teachers who qualified in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US, as well as in the European Union, are allowed to register their qualifications to obtain qualified teacher status in England.
Rikama Education are recruiting international teachers to come and work in Kent. We are currently reaching out to teachers across Europe, Canada and Australia, but will be working across more countries in the near future.
With such a shortage of teachers here in the UK and a shortage of teaching jobs in other countries Rikama Education plan on helping those who are struggling by helping them find work.
Above is a picture from a job fair we attended in Canada at Western University. Although it didn’t have a great turn out we didn’t give up there! Our next visit was to York University which had a much bigger turn out. Attending these job fairs, we hope to find teachers to help the crisis in the education industry. Our trip to Canada turned out the be quiet successful and we hope to return soon to help NQT’s and qualified teachers find jobs in Kent.
We would like to thank the universities for letting us attend the job fairs, and everyone who turned up and was interested in Rikama Education and what we have to offer.Read more
Schools should encourage pupils with poor grades to mix with stronger students if they want to keep them in education, suggests a study.
Positive parental and friendship group influences are key to cutting drop-out rates, according to Arizona State University research.
The researchers interviewed vulnerable students at a Chicago high school.
Parents’ influence fell if pupils had too much contact with other disaffected students, the researchers found.
The researchers spoke to 125 pupils, aged 15 to 18, at a school with one of the worst drop-out rates in the city and analysed their records.
They concluded that students’ academic achievement was directly related to the level of parental involvement “more than any factors”.
But they also found that if vulnerable students had too much contact with peers with a negative view of education, “the effect of parental involvement on the dynamics of dropouts becomes negligible”.
Waste of time?
In the United States, most students are expected to finish high school in 12th grade, aged 17 or 18.
Anyone who leaves without finishing is termed a “dropout”.
In 2012, more than 3 million students dropped out from high school, says the paper, with higher rates among low income groups, including Hispanic and African American communities.
This means around 17,000 students drop out daily and 31 million people could be high school drop-outs by 2022, say the authors.
Being a dropout means lower earnings and greater reliance on welfare and has a knock-on effect on the wider economy, says the paper.
“This is a problem we can’t afford to accept or ignore,” according to President Obama in 2010, quoted in the paper.
The 125 students were asked about parental involvement and peer influences, including numbers of friends who had dropped out and these friends’ attitudes to school.
According to the study, almost half “were in frequent contact with individuals who think that attending school is a waste of time”.
The study found that if vulnerable students were identified early and parents increased their involvement, their numbers of disaffected friends would fall.
But if intervention was left until until students were actively failing at school, attempts at parental guidance were futile.
The researchers advise schools with high drop-out rates to encourage vulnerable students to mix with a wider group of pupils, not just other vulnerable or failing pupils, while fostering parental involvement.
“Then they can achieve sustained reduction in the number of dropouts,” they conclude.
Youngsters are being left to fend for themselves on the internet against dangers such as bullying and grooming, a report has said.
The Children’s Commissioner for England said children did not know how to deal with common problems they found online.
Anne Longfield called for new laws to protect children’s online privacy and data and for a digital ombudsman to be created to uphold their rights.
The government said children were taught about online safety in schools.
The children’s commissioner’s Growing Up Digital report said children were being “left to learn about the internet on their own with parents vainly hoping that they will benefit from its opportunities while avoiding its pitfalls”.
Ms Longfield said: “The internet is an incredible force for good, but it is wholly irresponsible to let them roam in a world for which they are ill-prepared, which is subject to limited regulation and which is controlled by a small number of powerful organisations.”
Her report recommended that:
- Children should study “digital citizenship” to learn about their rights and responsibilities online, so they are prepared for online activities
- Social media companies should rewrite their “impenetrable” terms and conditions in far simpler language so children know what they are agreeing to
- Ministers should create a “digital ombudsman” to mediate for children seeking the removal of content
Ms Longfield said: “It is critical that children are educated better so that they can enjoy the opportunities provided by the internet whilst minimising the well-known risks.
“It is also vital that children understand what they agree to when joining social media platforms, that their privacy is better protected, and they can have content posted about them removed quickly should they wish to.”
The report said children were agreeing to “impenetrable” terms and conditions they could never understand when using social media.
It said small print often contained “hidden clauses” waiving privacy rights and allowing content children posted to be sold.
‘Give them power’
Ms Longfield told Radio 4’s Today the internet was not designed for children even though they are now the biggest users.
“Parents are always going to be on a losing battle which is why we need to take greater action to shift the balance of power towards children,” she added.
Ms Longfield told the programme it was about recognising the significant amount of time children are spending on the internet and introducing new support.
She said the support needed to build their resilience, help them get better information and “give them power and recourse if things go wrong”.
Children are signing away their privacy and finding terms and conditions “bewildering”, Ms Longfield added while calling for the social media industry to be more transparent.
“This is about helping children navigate this world, they have got all sorts of rights that we have signed up to in the physical world. It is now time to sign up to those in the digital world.”
Online and offline lessons
Founder of Parent Zone, Vicki Shotbolt, said it was about social skills and being savvy – all of those lessons you teach your kids about being offline.
“You just need to apply those lessons online as well,” she said.
“The risk is all that data is going somewhere. Young people are telling services a great deal … they are telling their friends where they are, what they are doing, where they go to school, but you are building up this massive history for yourself,” she told BBC Breakfast.
Ms Shotbolt questioned who was looking after the rights and interests of children online and added that an ombudsman would be the “busiest person in Britain” because they would be inundated with queries.
The study tested teenagers’ ability to understand the terms and conditions of photo-sharing website Instagram, which it says is used by 56% of 12 to 15-year-olds and 43% of eight to 11-year-olds.
The report said: “Younger ones were unable to read more than half of the 17 pages of text, which run to 5,000 words, and none understood fully what the terms and conditions committed them to.
“An expert in privacy law on the Growing Up Digital panel simplified, demystified and condensed the terms and conditions so that they were comprehensible to teenagers, leaving many of them shocked by what they had unwittingly signed up to.”
Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s, said: “This report provides further worrying evidence of how children are unprepared to deal with life online and receive little help in dealing with cyber-bullying, ‘sexting’ and harassment.”
A government spokesman said the UK was a “world leader in internet safety”, but accepted there was more to do adding that it would consider the report’s findings.
He said: “The internet has given children and young people fantastic opportunities, but protecting them from risks they might face online or on their phones is vital.”
He added that children in primary schools were taught how to use technology safely, respectfully and responsibly, including how to keep personal information private.
The department added that it was investing £4.5m in supporting teachers to deliver the new computing curriculum, which includes e-safety.
Social media companies have to have robust processes in place to address inappropriate and abusive content on their sites, and they are expected to respond quickly to incidents of abusive behaviour on their networks