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Survey reveals devastating cuts facing schools and colleges

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Survey reveals devastating cuts facing schools and colleges

Almost all schools and colleges in England are likely to face the prospect of having to make cuts because of rising costs and insufficient government funding, an ASCL survey has found.

The survey of 630 headteachers and business leaders found that:

  • Nearly all respondents (98%) said their school or college would have to make financial savings either in the current academic year 2022/23 or future years, or both, compared to last year, as a result of cost pressures. Alarmingly, 60% said they will have to make financial savings both in the current academic year and in future years.
  • In the absence of additional funding, 58% said they were considering or likely to reduce teaching staff and increase class sizes, while 43% are considering reducing curriculum options, and 55% are considering reducing the number of teaching assistants.    
  • Additional costs facing schools vary depending on factors such as the composition of their workforce in line with pupil needs and energy price contracts. Our survey feedback shows that some secondary schools are facing extra costs of up to £500,000 this year. This equates to the cost of employing around 10 teachers.
  • Press reports have suggested that some schools may reduce to four-day or three-day weeks to reduce costs. We asked respondents whether this was being considered. None are considering a three-day week, but 17 schools (2.7%) are considering a four-day week.

The cost pressures affecting schools and colleges include nationally agreed teacher and support staff pay awards for which there is no additional government funding to afford the cost of these awards, rising energy costs which are only partially offset by the government’s six-month energy price guarantee, and rising catering costs.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, today said:

“School leaders in this survey use words such as ‘catastrophic’ and ‘devastating’ to describe the financial situation they are facing and the impact on their pupils. It is clear that the future is bleak unless the government acts urgently.

“No government can claim to be serving the public interest by presiding over an education funding crisis which cuts provision and imperils standards. And no government which does so can expect to remain in power at the next General Election.

“To make matters worse, we are concerned about the possibility of further public spending cuts being imposed in order to rescue the nation’s finances from the hole dug by the government. It should be clear to MPs of all parties that it is simply untenable to once again sacrifice schools and colleges on the altar of austerity, as happened in the wake of the last financial crisis. Education should not be seen as a soft target for government cuts but a vital public service and an investment in the future.

“It is imperative that the new Prime Minister and Chancellor make education a priority by improving the level of funding in their forthcoming financial plans.”

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that, on current spending plans, school funding per pupil will still be 3% lower in real-terms at the end of this parliament in 2024/25 than it was in 2010. Funding per student in colleges will remain 11% lower, and in school sixth forms 27% lower.

Asked about the potential impact of cost pressures, one headteacher said: “Devastating. I have been here for 15 years and put my heart and soul into improving this school. It has been tough, but it has worked; this is now going to be thrown away. I have no option but to make significant redundancies across all areas of the school, from SLT to support staff. The impact will be a significant increase in class sizes, more work for the senior colleagues who will still be here and over time, the improvements which have been made will be eroded. I am completely disillusioned.”

Another said: “Catastrophic. The scale of savings required in-year is unachievable. Our forecast budget, which was previously positive, is now dire. We would have to fundamentally change our offer to manage. The quality of education we will be able to provide will be substantially reduced.”

For more details on our funding survey see here.

Sector Response

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“The findings from this survey are alarming and very much mirror what we are hearing from our own members. As we revealed at the weekend, more than 90% of schools we’ve spoken to are predicting they will be in deficit next year unless they make significant cuts that they know will detrimentally impact children’s education and wellbeing.

“Education spending is due to be around £2billion less in real terms by September 2024 than it was in 2010. This continued under-funding, alongside spiralling energy bills, inflationary costs, and an unfunded teachers’ pay award means school leaders are being forced to make impossible choices on what to cut.

“The new Education Secretary must urgently get to grips with the reality of the situation facing schools, listen to the profession, and make a compelling case to the Treasury for the funding so urgently needed, ahead of the next fiscal announcement.

“The school funding crisis is impacting children and their life-chances directly, right now. The government has to understand the damage they are doing.”

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