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Rapidly rising energy costs could negatively impact education and hamper recovery efforts, say school leaders

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary

Today (Thurs 28 Apr), school leaders’ union NAHT are releasing the results of a survey of its members on the rising energy costs their schools are facing.

The survey, conducted between 21st March – 5th April 2022, had over 1,000 responses from school leaders in England and showed that almost all respondents (99%) were expecting an increase in their energy costs over the next 12 months.

  • On average, our respondents are anticipating a 106% increase in energy costs, with 16% expecting an increase of 200% or more
  • More than a third of respondents (37%) are predicting a deficit budget by the end of next year as a direct result of increased energy costs
  • Schools reported having to reduce spending on teachers or teaching hours, as well as on teaching assistants, non-educational support and services for children, and investment in maintenance and equipment for school buildings due to rising energy costs.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary for school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“We are hearing quite clearly from our members that rising energy costs will almost certainly have a negative impact on education, and could hamper their recovery efforts.

“For some, the energy price hikes are the equivalent to the cost of a full-time teacher.

“Every penny spent in schools is a choice. These increased energy costs mean that money which could be being spent on pupils is being paid to energy companies instead.

“The government’s attempts to restore school spending to 2010 levels is being rapidly eroded by these and other cost pressures. The government needs to do more to ease the impact of the energy crisis on schools, for children’s sake.”

Anonymous comments from school leaders who completed NAHT’s survey, show the actions they are considering having to take to balance their budgets in the face of rising costs, with many contemplating having to reduce their staff:

  • “I was going to take on a support assistant for a year for SEN but can’t afford to commit to a year’s salary.”
  • “Possible redundancies”
  • “Reducing supply and staff absence cover”
  • “I’ve thought about leaving to recruit a cheaper HT”
  • “Reduce supply budget”
  • “I am resigning! We can’t run the school without proper funding.  We’ve already had restructures and I don’t think we can go any leaner.”

Sector Response

Stephen Morgan MP, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, responding to new data from that NAHT revealing school leaders expect energy bills to double on average in the next year, said:

“Eye-watering energy bills threaten to cause yet more disruption to our children’s education, depriving them of the classroom support they need and the opportunities they deserve.

“Ministers cannot bury their heads in the sand while the spiralling cost-of-living crisis, made worse by Downing Street, pushes school finances into crisis.

“Labour is calling on the government to prioritise children’s learning and development post-pandemic, with breakfast and afterschool clubs, tutoring and mental health support. The Education Secretary must match this ambition with a proper plan to secure children’s futures.”

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