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School budgets 'beyond breaking point', says heads' union

NAHT writes to chancellor Phillip Hammond, ahead of this week's Autumn Statement, calling for more money after interim poll finds that 69 per cent of school leaders believe their deficits will be untenable by 2020

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NAHT writes to chancellor Phillip Hammond, ahead of this week's Autumn Statement, calling for more money after interim poll finds that 69 per cent of school leaders believe their deficits will be untenable by 2020

A headteachers’ union has written to the chancellor ahead of his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, to demand more school funding, warning that school budgets are “beyond breaking point”.

The NAHT has called on Phillip Hammond to ensure that the proposed national funding formula will mean an increasing in spending and that teachers’ pay keeps pace with other professions.

The letter also presses the need for greater support for the poorest pupils in the country, and improved investment in children’s mental health.

In his letter, NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby warns that “children’s education will suffer” due to insufficient funding in schools.

“It’s getting more expensive to run schools and the government needs to recognise this, including meeting the shortfalls in funding for sixth forms, early years and for services previously provided by local authorities,” he writes.

“Many school budgets are now beyond breaking point. The chancellor needs to increase education spending or the quality of education on offer in many schools will begin to suffer.”

'Untenable deficits'

According to the interim results of a survey carried out by the union, 69 per cent of school leaders believe their deficits will be untenable by 2020.

The poll also showed 81 per cent of headteachers have been forced to cut investment in equipment , while 66 per cent have had to reduce the hours of teaching assistants as well as cutting back in training teachers.

In his letter, Mr Hobby warns that “children’s education will suffer” due to insufficient funding in schools. He states that the government is “rightly addressing the inequities in the [national] funding formula”.

“However, we must also see enough money in the system, not just fairness in the way it is shared out,” he adds. “Almost nine out of 10 school leaders are telling us that a rise in national insurance employer contributions and pension contributions are key reasons behind financial pressures in their school.” 

The letter says that almost nine out of 10 leaders say rise in national insurance employer contributions and pension contributions are key reasons behind added financial pressures.

“It cannot be right that the government is undermining the money it gives by asking for increasing amounts back in return. Protecting budgets at a time of rising costs is no protection at all,” Mr Hobby writes.

Mr Hobby also points to recommendations from the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB) that teachers’ pay rises need to be “significantly higher” than the 1 per cent currently in place if the government is to address recruitment problems.

“Unless the government end their policy of real terms pay cuts, the profession will struggle to recruit and retain teachers,” he adds.

The government said it had protected the core schools budget and invested hundreds of millions in teacher recruitment. 

“Our fairer funding proposals will ensure areas with the highest need attract the most funding and end the historic unfairness in the system," a government spokesperson added. "On top of this we are investing a record £1.4billion to transform children’s mental health support, including strengthening the links between schools and local services.”

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