A major TES survey reveals that a 'Dunkirk spirit' is keeping teachers going as their buildings crumble, books fray and classes swell.
Schools are cutting back on crucial repairs and maintenance in desperate attempts to keep staff and balance tight budgets.
Headteachers are spending less this year on the upkeep of buildings despite seven out of 10 admitting that the fabric of their school was deteriorating.
They are also not spending on resources for curriculum development, books or equipment to ensure that the brunt of cuts does not fall on staff.But heads have been unable to protect jobs completely, and almost half said they were now spending less on staff.
Bridget Bradshaw, head of Purlwell infants, Batley, West Yorkshire, spoke for many when she said: "After losing one teacher last year, then another this year, we are wondering where it will end."
The picture in a primary school on the outskirts of Nottingham appeared particularly bleak: "This year we had to lose three staff, send all the library books back (Pounds 2000-worth), cut the equipment budget totally and reduce the consumables budget to Pounds 4,000 for 350 children. The window frames are devoid of paint and are rotting."
Almost two-thirds of all heads - and 69 per cent of those in middle schools - said that they were now spending less on repairs and maintenance. Seventy-nine per cent of middle-school heads reported that the fabric of their schools was decaying, compared with 70 per cent of primary and secondary heads.
The next area to suffer heavy cuts was curriculum development - 63 per cent of all heads said they were spending less per pupil this year. Among primary heads, the figure was 65 per cent.
Budgets for books and equipment were slashed in more than 60 per cent of schools. Again, the figure for primary was higher, with 64 per cent of heads reporting that they had been forced to make cuts.
But their job protection strategies appear to have paid off. Only 47 per cent of primary heads said they were spending less on staff, compared with 52 per cent of secondary heads and 63 per cent of middle school heads. Overall, 48 per cent of heads said they had cut back on the amount they spent on staff.
The survey's findings will be further ammunition for those pressing the Government to spend more on education. The National Confederation of Parent-Teacher Associations has estimated that parents are already raising Pounds 77 million through fetes, barbecues and sponsored events for schools. Sean Rogers, its chair elect, says that the Government is forcing them into paying a further Pounds 1.2 billion for their children's schooling.
Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, has been warned by parents and local authorities that class sizes will rise further and thousands more teachers will lose their jobs unless she comes up with more cash.
As the head of a West Bromwich primary put it: "Unless additional money is put into education - and not for more glossy literature and politically motivated research - a crisis will be seen in most schools within the next 12 months. "
The TES survey was based on a random and reprsentative survey of 1,209 schools in England and Wales - 5 per ent of the total number. It was conducted at the end of the summer term and comprised a three-page questionnarie. it was sent to 1,001 primary schools, 33 middle school and 175 secondary schools. The survey had an overall return rate of 44 per cent - 42 per cent from middle schools and 51 per cent from secondaries.
Teachers % of schools spending lesson staff Primaries 47 Middle 63 Secondary 52 All 48
Books and equipment % of schools spending lesson resources Primaries 64 Middle 50 Secondary 48 All 61
Repairs % of schools spending less on repairs Primaries 67 Middle 69 Secondary 56 All 65
Resources for Curriculum development % of schools spending lesson curriculum development Primaries 65 Middle 50 Secondary 54 All 63