According to new findings, the school funding crisis in England is having a particularly detrimental effect on schools in rural communities. Almost half of all schools in rural areas of England are facing budget shortfalls due to undersubscription. This means that headteachers across the country are forced to take on a variety of menial jobs to cut costs.
The Key recently conducted a survey in which 500 headteachers were asked about their roles within the rural schools they governed. The results of the survey indicated that 42% schools are unfilled, while 67% of headteachers said strict budgets were impacting their ability to run their schools. To save money, headteachers are forced to take on multiple roles – in addition to their already sizeable workload – to ease financial pressures.
Headteachers forced into “multiple roles” to cut costs
Menial tasks undertaken by heads in England include gardening, cleaning, lunchtime supervision and driving the school minibus. Headteachers also describe feeling under pressure to go to extra lengths to keep parents happy so they don’t lose more pupils. This means having long conversations with parents and acting as “social workers” when relationships break down at home, which can take hours out of their working day.
Competition between rural schools is fierce. As all schools in rural areas face the same subscription challenges, there is always room for children to move if parents aren’t happy or if relationships break down at home. This means classes are often disrupted, children are moved halfway through the academic year and pupil numbers are constantly changing.
Is rural poverty part of the problem?
Rural poverty is another growing problem for schools in England. Many families struggle to get by on low incomes but aren’t eligible for free school meals. The government’s free school meals programme brings additional funding into schools, which those in rural areas now miss out on.
Transport costs are another issue for parents living in rural areas. Many are priced out of rural homes by retirees or those buying idyllic second properties, meaning families are moving out of rural areas and into cheaper towns and cities to send their children to school.
Rural school crisis: what’s the solution?
A spokesperson for the Department for Education has recognised the challenges faced by rural schools, claiming that the government has set aside £25m to provide further support to these schools. So where would this money be best spent?
Along with hiring the appropriate staff to relieve pressures from headteachers, attention must be focused on helping schools adapt to their growing requirements. Schools may be more appealing than neighbouring education facilities if they have better outdoor play areas, enclosed and exterior dining areas and all-weather sports enclosures to encourage outdoor activity. Green space is increasingly becoming a priority for parents, so this is an area to focus on if schools want to win over parents.
Better insulation and adopting sustainable energy sources would also help schools save money, particularly in old buildings.
Streetspace provides cheap and affordable structures that make schools functional, attractive and more energy efficient. For more information about how we can help you adapt to your school’s changing requirements, contact us on 08450 750 760.