Schools - 10 Key Facts

Schools in England have not faced the same financial pressures as many other parts of the public sector. Per-pupil spending has risen in real terms in most years since 2009/10, while the cap on pay increases for teachers has kept the wage bill down. However, new pressure to make efficiencies has emerged particularly over the past two years, as per-pupil spending has started to fall and schools have taken on new responsibilities.

There are some signs that an increase in workload is putting pressure on the workforce and that schools are finding it harder to recruit and retain enough teachers. But overall, schools have become more productive: there are more pupils per teacher, and pupil attainment has been on an upward trend – particularly at primary school level.

For full citations and further details see the schools chapter from Performance Tracker 2018. This analysis is drawn from Perfomance Tracker, produced by the Institute for Government in partnership with CIPFA.

1. Day-to-day spending on schools in England has risen by 4% since 2011/12 to £39.4bn.

  • This would have been lower, were it not for the injection of an extra £1.3bn over two years in July 2017.
  • This does not include spending on school sixth forms. Between 2011/12 and 2017/18, this has fallen by 24%, or £80, per pupil.
  • Or spending by local authorities on services for schools. This has also fallen sharply over this period, by 55% in real per-pupil terms, to £534 last year.

2. The number of pupils in mainstream primary schools has risen by over 500,000 (9%) since 2009/10.

  • Most of that increase has affected primary schools. The number of primary pupils was 17% higher in 2017/18 (3.79m) than in 2009/10 (3.23m).
  • But it is now starting to feed into secondary schools. Secondary pupil numbers are currently 1% lower than in 2009/10 (2.86m), but have been rising since 2014/15 (from 2.73m to 2.84m).
  • Since 2014/15, the growth in pupil numbers has outpaced spending growth. Per-pupil spending has fallen by around 4% in both primary and secondary schools.

3. The total number of teachers employed in schools has risen by 2% since 2010/11 - but secondary teacher numbers are falling.

  • The number of primary teachers has risen broadly in line with pupil numbers. There are 13% more primary teachers (FTE) now than in 2010/11, although a slight drop in 2017/18 lead to a slight increase in the pupil:teacher ratio (20.9 in 2017/18, up from 20.5 in 2011/12).
  • Teacher numbers have fallen in secondary schools. There are currently around the same number of secondary pupils in schools as there were in 2010/11, but almost 14,800 fewer secondary school teachers (FTE) – a 7% decrease.
  • More teaching assistants are being deployed in primary schools. Between November 2011 and November 2017, there was a 29% increase in the number of teaching assistants in primary schools.

4. Teachers work an average of 50 hours a week in term time.

  • Across the whole year, the average hours worked by teachers in 2015/16 was 45 a week – higher than police officers (44 hours) and nurses (38 hours).
  • This is a 4% increase from 2009/10 according to research from the National Foundation for Educational Research.

5. In 2017/18, the overall number of trainee teachers recruited was 10% (2,952 people) short of the Government's target.

  • This masks a higher, underlying shortfall, as it counts over-recruitment in some subjects as making up for under-recruitment in others. In total, 3,881 targeted trainee places were not filled in 2017/18.
  • This reflect a shortfall in secondary school trainees. On history and physical education met the subject recruitment targets in 2017/18. English fell 10% short (251 trainees), maths fell 21% short (652 trainees), and science subjects were short of 676 trainees, with a particularly acute shortage (335 trainees, 32%) in physics.
  • The number of people training for a teaching qualification is falling: from 39,010 in 2009/10 to 32,710 in 2017/18.
  • The vacancy rate in schools is very low. In 2017/18, there were only 370 recorded vacancies at primary and nursery schools, and 1,470 temporarily filled posts. In secondary schools the overall vacancy rate has more than doubled since 2010/11, but remains at only 1.1%.

6. 42,830 teachers (FTE) left the profession between November 2016 and 2017 - a 9% increase since 2011.

  • This is the equivalent of 9.9% of the workforce – up from 9.2% (39,150) in the year to November 2011. This may include teachers to left state schools to work in private schools.
  • The number of teachers leaving for reasons other than retirement or death has risen much faster. The number of teachers going ‘out of service’ rose from 24,750 in the year to November 2011, to 35,800 in the year to November 2017 – a 45% increase.
  • Teachers are not necessarily leaving because of pay dissatisfaction. 79% of teachers are satisfied with their pay, and those leaving teaching take an average 10% pay cut. A 2017 study found a 20 percentage-point increase in part-time working among people who left teaching for other jobs.

7. Every cohort of newly qualified teachers since 2010 has had lower retention rates than the one before.

  • For instance, 73% of teachers who entered the profession in 2014/15 were still there three years later, compared with 77% who entered in 2010/11.
  • Workload is hindering retention: 67% of respondents to an NAO survey of school leaders said workload was the key barrier to retaining teachers.

8. There are indications that the burden of pastoral care on teachers and other school staff is rising.

  • Between 2009/10 and 2016/17, the permanent exclusion rate in secondary schools rose from 0.15% to 0.20%.
  • The number of referrals from schools to children’s social care rose by 39% between 2013/14 and 2017/18.

9. Results in secondary schools have been broadly flat, while primary results have risen - although changes in methodology make it hard to tell.

  • Primary performance was rising, before they changed the assessment regime. Between 2009/10 and 2014/15, the proportion of children achieving at least ‘level 4’ in reading, writing and maths at the end of primary school rose from 64% to 80%. In 2017/18, 64% reached the ‘expected standard’.
  • Secondary school performance has also improved in recent years. Between 2009/10 and 2012/13, the proportion of pupils achieving grades A* to C in England and maths GCSEs rose from 56% to 61%, remaining at 59% between 2013/14 and 2015/16. The second year of assessments using the new 0-9 grading scheme for GCSEs show 43% of pupils reaching the expected standard of ‘5’.
  • OECD data suggests school quality has remained broadly constant in England. In its Programme for International Student Assessment survey between 2009 and 2015, science scores for England fell from 515 to 512, maths remained at 493 and reading rose from 495 to 500.

10. 86% of schools were rated 'good' or 'outstanding' at their most recent Ofsted inspection.

  • As of 31 August 2018, 18,610 schools (86%) were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, compared with 14,908 (68%) on 31 August 2010.
  • Ofsted ratings are higher in primary than secondary schools: 87% of primary schools were rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ at their most recent Ofsted, compared with 75% of secondary schools.
Update date: 
Wednesday, February 20, 2019