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The State of Education 2016: what is the sector telling us?

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For this year’s State of Education report, The Key collected
the views of more than 2,000 school leaders and
governors across the country. While our 2015 survey took
a sweeping look at the education landscape, this year
we’ve delved deeper into the reality behind some of the
headline issues for those leading our schools. How is
population growth affecting demand for school places? Is
there really a shortage of teachers? Our report attempts to
unpick some of the big questions about challenges, concerns
and priorities in the sector today.

So, what looms greatest on the minds of school leaders and governors
for the year ahead? For many, it’s the school budget and a lack of
funding. This is expected to be the biggest challenge on the horizon
for nearly a third of schools. It's possible that the proposed national
funding formula will help, but budgets are still having to stretch further
to accommodate rising costs linked to pay and pensions.
On the subject of pupil places – six in 10 school leaders told us
their school was oversubscribed – but we also found notable
undersubscription, with one in five schools receiving fewer
applications than they can accommodate. This, too, brings further
budget implications.

But what about once children arrive at school? We found that in a
third of primary schools more than half of new pupils are below the
expected level of school-readiness. Why? Lack of social skills, delayed
speech and lack of resilience are the most commonly-cited issues. If
children are already behind on arrival, the challenge for our teachers is
greatly increased.

When it comes to classroom teachers, schools are struggling to
recruit and retain them but our findings also suggest a more mobile
workforce, where teachers are alert to opportunities elsewhere and
generally leave their posts to take up jobs at other schools.
And what about school leaders themselves? Are they confident in
the quality of leadership and teaching in their schools? Yes. And do
they expect to be in post in three years’ time? Nearly three-quarters
told us that they do.

There is no professional sphere that shapes and affects lives
quite like education. Despite the challenges they face, almost
all school leaders (98%) feel they have a positive impact on the
future prospects of children and young people, and six in 10
would recommend their job to others. Governors, too, are happy
recommending their role to others, with 88% feeling they make a
positive difference to their school.

Schools are central to our economy, developing the skills and
qualities that individuals, and we as a country, need to be
competitive. This report gives a valuable insight into what those
at the front line think about the current state of education, and
how they think this will develop.

As those leading our schools navigate the increasingly complex
task they’re entrusted with, let’s make sure that they get a voice to
match. That’s why we run our State of Education survey each year,
and now it’s time to listen to the findings and ensure we're offering
the best possible support to our schools.

We'll be exploring these findings in more detail on our blog over the coming weeks. In the meantime, download and read the full report here.

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