More than two-thirds (69 per cent) of secondary school heads have had to cut teaching staff to save money, according to new research released today by social mobility charity the Sutton Trust.
The figure is drawn from the Teacher Voice survey, carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the trust, in which almost 1,700 teachers in England were polled last month.
Financial constraints have resulted in more than four out of ten secondary heads reducing the choice of subjects they offer at GCSE and A-level, the research shows. And 64 per cent have cut back their budget for IT equipment.
More than a quarter (27 per cent) of secondary school heads admitted that they are using the pupil premium to plug gaps elsewhere in their budget. Only half (50 per cent) of heads think that pupil premium funding is helping to close attainment gaps in their school.
Saving money is costing schools in terms of social mobility, with cuts to school budgets compromising attempts to close attainment gaps between rich and poor pupils, the charity warned.
This comes amid growing concern over the level of resources in schools. Last month unions claimed there has been a £5.4bn shortfall in school funding since 2015.
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The research also reveals the mounting cost of financial cuts in primary schools, where one in three (32 per cent) heads have reduced the number of teachers, and 72 per cent have cut the number of teaching assistants. Some 41 per cent of primary heads said they’d had to cut back on trips and outings, while almost half (49 per cent) said they’d slashed spending on IT equipment.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Our new polling adds to the growing evidence that the squeeze on school budgets is having a detrimental effect. Of particular concern is that schools are having to use funding for poorer pupils to plug gaps in their finances.
"Many are having to get rid of teachers to close these funding gaps and endangering efforts to improve opportunities for poorer young people.”
Responding to the findings, James Westhead, executive director of Teach First, commented: “It’s deeply concerning to hear that schools are being forced to cut their teaching staff. There are no great schools without great teachers and this is having a damaging impact on the future life chances of our young people.”
He added: “To address this we hope to see additional funding for schools in the forthcoming spending review, alongside the continued protection for the pupil premium, to help ensure schools can attract and retain the best possible teachers, where they’re needed the most, to tackle inequality.”
A Department for Education spokesperson claimed: “There is more money going into our schools than ever before, and since 2017, we have given every local authority more money for every 5 to 16 year old in every school and made funding fairer across the country.”
They added: “There are more teachers in our schools than in 2010 and the number of teaching assistants has increased by a fifth between 2011 and 2017.”
However, the spokesperson admitted that schools face “budgeting challenges” and said: “The secretary of state has made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back head teachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world-class education.”