‘Critical’ funding situation is ‘damaging’ education, heads warn

Schools cutting staff and subjects as ministers face a race against time to introduce new “fairer” funding before schools “go to the wall”.

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.

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.

He will warn: “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.”

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.

The news comes as the government faces a race against time to meet its promise to bring in a new “fairer” funding formula next year to prevent some schools “going to the wall”.

The timing is so tight that the NAHT headteachers’ union has called for the new formula to be delayed by a year, warning that school leaders will be “outraged and disgusted” if they are given just seven months’ notice for cuts to their budget – all that the current time frame is understood to allow for.

But ASCL is warning that delay will cause some schools “significant difficulty”. Some say it would cause schools in low funded areas to “go to the wall financially”.

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.

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.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are taking constructive action to ensure that schools have the resources they need.”

This is an edited article from the 4 March edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article on the ASCL survey here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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