‘Critical’ budget situation is ‘damaging’ education

4th March 2016 at 00:00
Schools are cutting the curriculum and making teachers redundant to stay afloat

A “critical” funding situation has led 80 per cent of secondaries to reduce staff and three quarters of the sector’s school leaders to warn that education is being damaged.

The shocking impact of the financial squeeze is revealed in an Association of School and College Leaders survey, which shows that schools are increasing class sizes and cutting teaching jobs and the curriculum.

It also found that 90 per cent of secondary leaders believe that the financial situation will become critical, very serious or serious over the next 12 months.

Investment needs

ASCL president Allan Foulds will use his opening speech at the association’s annual conference in Birmingham today to call for greater government investment in education. “These problems are so acute that there is a serious danger we will not be able to maintain current standards, let alone raise them further,” he will say.

“Geoffrey Howe once made a famous observation about being sent to the crease only to find that your bat has been broken by the team captain. The situation with teacher supply and funding is so serious that we are in danger of finding we are out there with no bat at all.”

The survey, of more than 900 school leaders, found that 77 per cent felt financial pressures had a “detrimental effect” on the education they were able to provide.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that schools in England are having to make real-terms cuts of around 8 per cent during the course of this Parliament because of rising costs and real-terms cuts.

Modelling by ASCL shows that an 11-18 secondary with around 1,700 pupils and a £7.9 million budget would have to make cuts of £531,000 in 2016-17 – equivalent to more than 10 teachers.

Cuts mean losing teachers

The survey found that 80 per cent of school leaders had saved money over the past year by not filling support staff vacancies, with 70 per cent leaving teaching posts unfilled.

Around two thirds say that they have cut the number of courses that they offer and increased class sizes.

Catharine Darnton, headteacher of Gillotts School, in Oxfordshire is worried that she will have to do something soon that will “hurt the standard of education” as the financial situation hits “crisis point”.

Ms Darnton has not replaced staff who left, has dropped subjects, and is now considering increasing some class sizes to 50.

Cutbacks will become even more severe in the next year, with half of school leaders set to make redundancies – a 12 per cent rise on this year – and three quarters planning to increase class sizes, according to the research.

Peter Woodman, headteacher of The Weald School, in West Sussex – one of the lowest-funded authorities in the country – said that the impact of the extra costs have had a “crippling effect” on secondary schools in the county who are all struggling to present balanced budgets this year.

“Colleagues are looking at some nightmare scenarios in a few years’ time. We have the added pressure that with teacher recruitment in the crisis that we find, our schools do not have the funds to compete with other, more well-funded authorities. A perfect storm is developing,” he added.

The Department for Education said: “Education is a priority for this government and we are continuing to invest billions into the sector each year as part of our drive to achieve educational excellence everywhere.

“We are taking constructive action to ensure that schools have the resources they need. We are protecting the schools budget in real terms and as pupil numbers increase, so will the amount of money in our schools.”

@Eleanor_Busby

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