Commentary - Heads prepare for the year of living frugally

17th December 2010 at 00:00

The party's over. If heads don't realise that already, then most certainly will when they click open their 201112 budgets early next year.

After more than a decade of real-terms funding rises, schools are going to have to get used to what the National Association of Head Teachers has described as a "very harsh climate".

Michael Gove admitted this week that his hard-won schools settlement will, overall, actually turn out to be a real-terms cut.

And the education secretary wasn't taking into account the many factors that heads leaders fear will make an already tight situation worse.

They point out that schools will be missing five months' funding for the 2.3 per cent rise in teachers' pay that began in September.

They will have to take up the slack for many of the services that local authorities can no longer afford to fund and falling rolls will give many schools even less room for manoeuvre.

There will be some winners, thanks to the pupil premium. It may only be a quarter of the money that the Lib-Dems had pledged for next year. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated the scheme will mean that a quarter of schools get a real-terms budget boost, a few by 2 per cent or more.

But many more will receive cuts of a similar amount. And the planned quadrupling in the size of the premium over the next four years is likely to make their situation more acute.

Malcolm Trobe, Association of School and College Leaders policy director, cannot identify any provision in the overall schools settlement made for the expansion of the premium.

"It is going to mean a redistribution of existing money, which means it will create winners and losers," he said. "Those with below average numbers of free school meals will lose and the effect of that will be quite profound.

"And if teacher pay rises kick back in September 2013 on flat cash budgets we will see a real sting in the tail."

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