Schools Will Have to Cut Staff as Budgets are Squeezed Says Union

Today the school leaders’ union NAHT released findings from the largest survey of school leaders ever taken.

The survey, which received responses from more than 11,000 school leaders in England, reveals the desperate cuts schools are having to make in the face of rising costs and government underfunding.

The majority of schools report that they will have to make redundancies next year:

  • Two thirds (66%) say they will have to make teaching assistants redundant or reduce their hours
  • Half (50%) say they are looking at reducing the number of teachers or teaching hours

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Schools are being hit by a perfect storm of costs. In attempting to balance their budgets, school leaders are being faced with eye-watering energy bills, spiralling costs to resources and supplies, and the financial impact of an unfunded pay increase this year. With no fat left to cut following a decade of austerity, many thousands of schools are now looking at falling into deficit unless they make swingeing cuts. Education is truly in a perilous state.”

  • More than half (54%) of schools say they will go into deficit this year, unless they make further cuts.
  • Just 5% of schools say they will be able to pay their costs next academic year (23-24) without going into deficit – meaning more than 9 in 10 schools won’t be able to balance their budgets without drastic action.

Since most schools are not permitted to operate a deficit budget, they must make significant cuts to remain in the black.

  • Close to half (47%) of schools said they would be forced to reduce non-educational support and services for children next year. This means cutting back on vital services such as counselling, therapy and mental health support.
  • Over four in ten (44%) said they would have to reduce spending on additional targeted interventions for pupils requiring additional support. This means pupils needing extra help or those with SEND may not get the support they need.
  • A third (31%) said they will have to reduce the number of children receiving tutoring support through the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). This means fewer children receive Covid recovery support.

Mr Whiteman continued: “After a decade of austerity, schools have made all the easy savings already. The only things left to cut are things that will have a real immediate impact on children – and especially those who are already the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. This goes against everything school leaders strive for, and the anger and desperation I am hearing from my members is unprecedented.

“Schools are finding that they have no option but to make redundancies. A reduction in teaching assistants and teachers will be catastrophic, leading to larger class sizes and less support for children with the greatest needs. This cannot be allowed to happen.

“Schools will no longer be able to afford those crucial services that are there to support pupils – things that children rely on not just for education but for their health and wellbeing. Things like in-school mental health services, counselling, and speech and language therapy. And it’s that extra help for families – especially those hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis – that schools can no longer afford – things like food for breakfast and help with clothing and laundry.

“Having refused to fund the proposed post-Covid recovery plan last year, this government is effectively abandoning the most vulnerable children in society a second time by decimating the support schools can offer during a renewed time of crisis.

“The responses to this survey represent a significant proportion of the education profession – leaders out there in schools, on the front line, who are seeing the true desperation of the situation at hand. They do not raise the alarm lightly – when they speak, the government must listen. We must see urgent action on education spending ahead of the next Budget update.”

NAHT’s survey was taken between 21st September and 14th October. It received more than 11,000 responses from mostly primary school leaders in England.

School funding is due to be 3% less in real terms in 2024/25 than it was 15 years before in 2010 (IFS).

That equates to a nearly £2billion shortfall (EPI) – £40k for the average primary school (the equivalent of 1 teacher) and £210k in the average secondary school (the equivalent of 4 teachers).

The full list of cuts schools are predicting are:

Actions taken next academic year (2023-24) 
Reducing the number of teaching assistants (or teaching assistant hours)66%
Reducing investment in equipment for the school, for example IT equipment58%
Reducing maintenance and/or capital spending56%
Reducing investment in CPD54%
Senior leaders having to take on additional teaching responsibilities52%
Reducing the number of teachers (or teaching hours)50%
Reducing energy consumption51%
Reducing non-educational support and services for children47%
Reduce spending on additional, targeted interventions for pupils requiring additional support44%
Reducing the number of administration and other non-classroom support staff (or working hours)43%
Using school/MAT reserves43%
Reduction in non-contact time for SENCo / ALNco35%
Reducing the size of, or restructuring the leadership team35%
Reduce the number of children receiving tutoring support through the NTP (England only)31%
No action taken2%

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