Economics lessons: How painful will things get?

  • Even before recent rises in inflation and staff turnover, the proportions of school budgets accounted for by staff costs had already been rising. In 2021 these reached around 80%, up from 75% in 2014. Amidst high inflation and unfunded pay increases, this trend looks likely to not merely continue but to accelerate.
  • Rising staff costs have put pressure on other important budget lines. For example, between 2014 and 2021 spending on learning resources (such as text books or online homework systems) fell from about 6% of school expenditure to about 4%; school maintenance fell from 3% to 2%; and staff development fell from 0.6% to 0.4% (not a typo). As well as faling as a proportion of budget, these lines have also declined in terms of spend per pupil and per teacher, even before allowing for inflation. Though arguably discretionary in the short term, such lines are potentially damaging to cut in the longer term.
  • Per-teacher spending on staff development and training in 2021 was only 63% of 2018 levels in nominal terms; after adjusting for inflation it was below 60%. All types of schools showed major reductions in staff development spending during this period.
  • Meanwhile, energy costs, which have typically accounted for around 1.5% of school budgets, look set to rise around threefold, notwithstanding the UK government's recently introduced (though partially retracted) price cap. This is likely to impact further on the budget lines mentioned above. Furthermore, these changes will be felt unequally around the country.

Figure 1: Proportions of mainstream state school budgets spent on staff
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Note: 2014 refers to the 2013-2014 academic year, and similarly for other years.
Figure 2: Proportions of mainstream state school budgets spent on non-staff costs
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Note: 2014 refers to the 2013-2014 academic year, and similarly for other years.
Figure 3: Staff spend per pupil at mainstream state schools
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Note: 2014 refers to the 2013-2014 academic year, and similarly for other years.
Figure 4: Spend per pupil at mainstream state schools
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Note: 2014 refers to the 2013-2014 academic year, and similarly for other years.
Figure 5: Annual energy spending per pupil (2014-2021)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 6: Staff development and training spend per teacher at mainstream state schools
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.
Note: 2014 refers to the 2013-2014 academic year, and similarly for other years.
Figure 7: Staff development and training spend per teacher by school type
Notes: School deprivation figures are based on pupils' eligibility for free school meals, with bands defined by the DfE. Local deprivation figures based on the mean IDACI of postcodes within a 4km radius of each school, with schools then divided into three roughly equally sized groups. A low proportion of EAL pupils means less than 4% and a high proportion means more than 15%. Urban, suburban and rural groups use ONS rural-urban categories applied to school postcodes.
Sources: School websites; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 8: Staff development and training spend per teacher (2014-2021)
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights.

A new school year begins with high headteacher turnover and unfilled staff vacancies

  • New headteacher appointments bounced back from their mid-pandemic lows, reaching easily the highest levels seen in recent years. This was true across both primary and secondary schools.
  • Teacher recruitment activity at secondary schools has also been unusually high for this time of year. The numbers of adverts on school websites are currently about 20% above normal pre-pandemic levels, though higher than this for some subjects and lower for others.
  • Vacancy adverts for school technicians are also at historic highs and are currently about 50% above normal pre-pandemic levels for this time of year.
  • These results indicate ongoing disruption to school recruitment in the wake of the pandemic, probably combined with the effects of general labour-market tightness across the economy. They suggest that schools are likely to have begun the new academic year with higher-than-usual staff turnover and vacancy rates.

Figure 1: Number of headteacher changes by month and year
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 2: Number of headteacher changes by year and month
Sources: Department for Education; SchoolDash Insights; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 3: Teacher recruitment adverts among secondary schools in England
Notes: Dates on the horizontal axis are for 2020. Values for 2019 are those corresponding to periods exactly 52 weeks earlier, those for 2018 to 104 weeks earlier, those for 2021 to 52 weeks later, those for 2022 to 104 weeks later. This aligns days of the week at the expense of a slight mismatch in dates. 'Arts' includes Art, Music, Dance and Drama; 'Humanities' includes History, Geography, Politics, Law, Economics, Philosophy and Classics; 'Science' includes Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Psychology; 'Technology' includes Computing, Engineering, Design & Technology and Food Technology; 'Other' includes Business Studies, Media Studies and Physical Education.
Sources: Secondary school, sixth-form college and FE college websites; SchoolDash Insights; SchoolDash analysis.
Figure 4: Technician recruitment among secondary schools in England
Notes: See notes to Figure 2 for a fuller list.
Sources: Secondary school, sixth-form college and FE college websites; SchoolDash Insights; SchoolDash analysis.

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