'Our school ethos is now based on cost-cutting': Teachers reveal the true impact of budget cuts

Three-quarters of school staff report that their school budget has been cut, in a joint ATL and NUT survey

Will Hazell

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Widespread concerns about the "cost-cutting" culture spreading across schools are revealed in a new survey, with three-quarters of school staff reporting budget reductions.

The joint survey by the ATL and NUT teaching unions also found that funding pressures have forced schools to resort to new ways to raise cash, with 44 per cent renting out school buildings and one-sixth asking parents for money.

In the survey of 1,200 teachers, support staff and heads, some 76 per cent of respondents said that their school’s budget has been cut this year compared with last year.

Some 93 per cent of respondents also said they were pessimistic about their school’s funding over the coming three years.

Over two-thirds (71 per cent) of secondary respondents reported that their school has already cut teaching posts, compared with 31 per cent of those in primary schools. Natural wastage was identified as the main way in which posts have been cut.

Overall, 50 per cent said they have been forced to increase class sizes, with the proportion rising to 70 per cent for secondary respondents. Sixty per cent of secondary staff said their school has cut the range of non-English Baccalaureate subjects.

In addition, 41 per cent said their school has cut special educational needs provision.

'I now teach a class of 64'

One respondent to the survey, a teacher at a primary school in Essex, said: “Over the last two years, the ethos of the school has changed from being based on a family atmosphere to being driven by cost-cutting.”

Another spoke of having to teach a “master class” of 64 pupils with another teacher on cover to support behaviour.

“[It’s] frankly just a lecture and the students are doing badly as I cannot help them all,” the teacher said.

According to the survey, schools have been forced to go to increasing lengths to raise money to cope with their funding shortfalls.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of respondents said their school has asked parents to pay for items to help their child’s education, such as textbooks or art and design materials.

One in six said their school asks parents for money to help fund the school – 17 per cent of primary and 16 per cent of secondary respondents. While most did not specify how much parents have been asked to give, 14 respondents said their school requests more than £20 a month.

Forty-four per cent said their school is renting out its school buildings, 26 per cent said their school is renting out its grounds, and 68 respondents said their school now has adverts on school premises.

The survey was published on the first day of ATL’s annual conference in Liverpool, where five motions on the subject of funding are set to be debated.

Mary Bousted, ATL’s general secretary, said: “Unless the government finds more money for schools and fast, today’s school children will have severely limited choices at school.”

Children from poorer families will be worse hit, she said, “because their parents may struggle to provide the resources schools can no longer afford”.

Kevin Courtney, the general secretary of the NUT, added: “Parents cannot sit back and watch their children’s education harmed by this bargain-basement approach to schooling.”

“Our government must invest in our country and invest in our children.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at almost £41 billion in 2017-18 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42 billion by 2019-20.

“We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost-effective ways and make efficiencies.”

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Will Hazell

Will Hazell

Will Hazell is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @whazell

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