ESF warns of fee increases to cover costs of funds cut
Cumulative dive in public funding now tops 12pc since 2004
The English Schools Foundation has warned that fee increases could result from a government cut in its subvention by 2.8 per cent in the coming financial year, amounting to a cumulative cut in public funding of more than 12 per cent since 2004.
Heather Du Quesnay, ESF chief executive, confirmed that an increase was being considered. 'We have to be sensible and plan for the future of the ESF to offer high standards of education,' she said. 'The ESF has not been planning for the future. There is an enormous back-log in improvements for schools in general, as well as the big projects.'
Adequate funding was also needed to upgrade business systems and for professional development and support for teachers.
Management would take soundings from its executive before announcing the increase. The ESF would, however, need to remain affordable for the broad constituency of its parents, she said.
The Education and Manpower Bureau had assured the ESF that the cut in government grant, from $272.6 million to $264.7 million, had nothing to do with the future of its subvention but was in line with 'efficiency savings' to help balance its budget. Ms Du Quesnay added: 'We are not planning against loss of the subvention.'
A fee increase would coincide with staff pay and benefit cuts of 9.2 per cent, due to be phased in from the start of the next academic year, which follow salary cuts over the last two years of 4.42 per cent.
Staff costs account for about 84 per cent of the ESF's expenditure.
Sarah Rigby, chairwoman of the ESF's joint council of parent teacher associations, said: 'No parents welcome a fee increase.' But she added that there was 'some understanding' among them that, following teachers' pay cuts, they had to share some of the pain.
Parents also recognised there was a need to upgrade facilities, particularly of older schools, to cater for the International Baccalaureate programme and new teaching approaches, she said.
However, she added that parents would be 'confused' over the need for the ESF to continue to shoulder 'efficiency savings' now that the government no longer faced a budget deficit. 'The EMB has lots of money for other projects but is still asking the ESF to make savings,' she said.
An EMB spokesperson said it required the foundation to contribute savings as 'an operationally autonomous' subvented body. 'This is necessary if EMB is to deliver its commitments and new initiatives without [pressuring] the public coffers,' she said. 'The savings target required of the ESF is mild and broadly comparable to that contributed by others in the education sector [such as universities].'