Schools are already starting to prepare for Education Secretary Justine Greening’s planned cuts to education that has already seen staff members not being replaced and school days shortened in a bid to curb spending without harming the quality of education.
Books and Equipment
As schools come under increasing pressure to reduce costs, they are looking at options that ask students to purchase their own text books (which poses its own issues when parents cannot afford to do so). Some teachers will be unable to buy basic equipment like pencils and glue. Broken IT will not be fixed or replaced. Nick Champion, Parent Governor at Hilton Primary School in Derbyshire says “staff are buying equipment for the classrooms with their own money”.
Loss of school subjects
Around 75% of school leaders are looking to streamline their subject offering in a bid to cut costs and reduce the number of staff required. This will be particularly prevalent amongst Sixth Form subjects. Languages, Music, Arts and Drama were among subjects being removed at A-level. One head said his school may have to axe its sixth form provision entirely for next year.
Teachers account for the vast proportion of a school’s budget and so naturally teachers are unlikely to be protected from cuts. We are already seeing that when teachers leave, they are not being replaced. There is talk that there will be redundancies and teaching assistants are being axed too. However, with a growing number of pupils and less teachers, we will soon see class sizes spiral adding to the ever-increasing overtime worked by teachers. It is likely that the teacher retention issue will worsen.
Schools are going to have to get their business hats on and find their entrepreneurial spirit. Schools that will ride the wave best will find new ways of generating income in order to avoid making cuts that harm the quality of education. Governors are already considering selling school land, letting facilities and fundraising through events and finding sponsorship from local businesses. Generating an income will be essential to avoid making harmful cuts.
Many respondents feared for students who have additional learning needs as the funding pressures would mean less support. One respondent wrote that, as learning assistants are made redundant, “the job of supporting students who require specialist one-to-one support in an overpopulated classroom has had its onus clearly and squarely put on the classroom teacher. They are told they need to ensure they are providing individualised support for sometimes up to five students with varying needs.”
Whilst the government has said its plan includes protections until 2019-20 to ensure that no schools will lose more than 6% of their budgets in real terms, schools must find ways to streamline. The cuts are forcing school leaders to think in a different way about spending, the integration of apprentices to make up for the levies, how to monetise existing facilities and resources. Let’s hope that the red flags the consultation has thrown up, encourage some change in what the government ultimately decide.