Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders
Beyond schools’ control is the fact that all costs for staff have increased. National insurance contributions have gone up, as have pension contributions – and staffing costs have gone up as a result. These are costs that have come directly from the Treasury and there’s not much that schools can do about them.
This means that schools must try to make economies where they can. They might look to reduce utility costs or change contracts, although inflation means that the costs of elements such as utilities are already higher than they used to be. Schools will probably also look to reduce spending on classroom resources and materials. Exam fees have increased but there is a potential saving to be made in not entering students for their AS exams and just having them continue through to A-level.
Once schools have made all the savings they can in terms of procurement, it comes down to staff cuts. There are all kinds of issues here. School leaders may look first at reducing support staff, such as teaching and administrative assistants, but this is hard to do without having an effect on outcomes. It is a delicate balancing act to lose support staff without placing too much of the burden of their jobs on to teachers.
Many schools are removing extracurricular activities or cutting services that they buy in, such as therapy or certain kinds of special educational needs provision.
School leaders may also be able to make savings on the maintenance of buildings, but short-term savings in this area can lead to bigger problems that will take a great deal of money to fix in the future. Headteachers need to be careful not to make decisions that will bring short-term gains but will result in long-term costs. It’s quite a negative picture, really.