Schools operating on a shoestring

Deltapoll/NEU poll finds majority of parents think the level of funding is responsible for problems in schools.


In a poll of over 1000 parents in England, commissioned by the National Education Union and conducted by Deltapoll, we asked for their thoughts about school funding. The poll was conducted in the days following the announcement of a General Election.

 The poll found:

  • 61 per cent either think the funding allocated to the school or educational environment will meet fundamental needs with nothing left over, or leave a shortfall. 
  • Over a quarter of parents (27%) have observed a shortage of qualified teachers in their child’s school.
  • 50% of parents said the state of school buildings was having a very strong or quite strong negative impact on their children’s education. With only 8% of parents saying it had no impact.

Parents in England believe their child’s school is operating on a shoestring. 

61% either think the funding allocated to the school or educational environment will meet fundamental needs with nothing left over, or leave a shortfall. 

Do you think that the funding allocated to your child(ren)'s school setting or educational environment for this year will... 

Meet all fundamental needs with some left over for other things21%
Meet all fundamental needs but leaving nothing left over35%
Be a shortfall where there will not be enough money to meet all fundamental needs26%
Don't know18%

Over a quarter of parents (27%) reported a shortage of qualified teachers at their school, with 25% reporting high turnover of staff/teachers leaving the profession in their child’s school – reflecting that parents are taking notice of the recruitment and retention crisis in education. Currently one in three teachers leave the profession within three years of qualifying. 

A quarter of parents (24%) also noted a shortage of Teaching Assistant (TA) support, with one in five (20%) reporting a lack of teaching resources in their child’s school, such as textbooks, sports, art or music equipment. 

21% reported a shortage of SEND support, whilst 23% of parents said that fundraising drives and/or requests for monthly parental contributions had occurred in their child’s school. 

As far as you are aware, which, if any, of the following has occurred in your child(ren)'s school within the last year?

A shortage of qualified teachers27%
Fewer school trips/extracurricular activities due to lack of resources27%
High turnover of staff/teachers leaving the profession25%
A shortage of Teaching Assistant (TA) support24%
Fundraising drives and/or requests for monthly parental contributions23%
Lack of access to mental health support for students22%
A shortage of SEND support21%
A lack of teaching resources such as textbooks/sports/art/music equipment20%
Higher levels of Early Careers Teachers /Newly Qualified Teachers recruitment to cover senior staff shortages19%
None of them10%
Don't know10%

The NEU is calling in our manifesto for education for education funding to be increased to 5 per cent of GDP. The next Government must put children first.  

Crumbling buildings

The state of school buildings is also an issue with 36% of parents believing the school buildings their children attend are too cold in winter, and 28% believing they are too hot in summer, among a host of other issues. 

As far as you are aware, which, if any, of the following issues affect the buildings in the school that your child(ren) attend?

Too cold in winter36
Overheating in the summer28
Poor ventilation21
Leaks when it rains20
Unhygienic areas16
The presence of mould or damp13
Portacabins used as classrooms13
Holes in walls10
Closures of spaces deemed unsafe10
Signs of vermin, such as mice and rats9
Sewage leaks7
Crumbling concrete in ceilings or walls7
Don't know29

 88% of parents who have experienced such issues say they have at least some negative impact on their children’s education.  

How much of a negative impact would you say this/these issues have on your child(rens) education?

A very strong negative impact21%
A quite strong negative impact29%
A mild negative impact38%
No negative impact at all8%
Don't know5%


The schools estate has been neglected since 2010 - spending on school buildings is low in historical terms. Children cannot be expected to learn in unfit school buildings. The can has been kicked down the road for too long, and the next Government will have to address capital funding issues. 

 Commenting on the poll results, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“No Government can continue to cut school budgets year after year without education suffering. This survey makes clear that parents are taking notice of the decline in resources in our education system, with a vast majority blaming funding issues for the problems their child experiences in the classroom.  

“It’s simple: less money means fewer resources. Head teachers have rebalanced budgets, shaved costs and made impossible choices again and again to keep our schools running. 

“Evidence provided by the School Cuts campaign shows that 70% of schools in England have less funding than in 2010. 

“Educators do all they can to deliver the best possible education for our children, but they have been let down by 14 years of neglect and underfunding from Government.

“Over one million children are taught in classes of 31 or more - the highest figure since 2001. Last year a new record was set for the number of teachers leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement or death and the number is up again this year.  

“Political parties need to take note that parents and carers will want to see concrete proposals on the future funding of our education system in England. 

Whoever is elected as our Government at this election must face this stark reality. Education is in crisis and we need a serious action to reverse the cuts of the last 14 years.” 

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