More than half of England’s schools plan redundancies as government underfunding and soaring bills take toll

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Schools have been left in a “perilous” state by government underfunding and soaring living costs, according to the headteachers’ union.

More than half of the schools in England have been forced to consider staff redundancies as the education sector is hit by the “perfect storm of costs”, the headteachers’ union has warned.

The largest ever survey of school leaders in England found that institutions are struggling to tackle sky-rocketing energy bills and severe government underfunding, with many looking to make staff redundant as their only remaining option. Of the 11,000 headteachers who responded, two thirds (66%) said they will reduce hours of teaching assistants and half (50%) are looking to reduce the number of teachers or teaching hours.

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National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) general secretary Paul Whiteman warned that “education is truly in a perilous state”, blaming “a decade of austerity” and “eye-watering energy bills” for the financial turmoil that most schools are facing. He admitted there is “no fat left to cut”.

He said: “Many thousands of schools are now looking at falling into deficit unless they make swingeing cuts. The only things left to cut [however] 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.”

More than half of the schools in England are planning teacher redundancies. Credit: Getty ImagesMore than half of the schools in England are planning teacher redundancies. Credit: Getty Images
More than half of the schools in England are planning teacher redundancies. Credit: Getty Images | Getty Images

Other findings of the survey, which was published today (8 November), found that just 5% will be able to pay their costs for the next academic year (2023/2024) without going into deficit. This means more than nine in 10 schools won’t be able to balance their budgets without urgent and drastic action.

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Nearly half of headteachers (47%) also said that schools will be forced to reduce non-educational support and services for children next year, while over two fifths (44%) said they would have to reduce spending on additional targeted interventions for pupils requiring additional support. This means things such as “mental health services, counselling, and speech and language therapy” will go by the wayside.

Almost one third (31%) also said they will have to reduce the number of children receiving tutoring support through the National Tutoring Programme (NTP).

Mr Whiteman highlighted the severe repercussions this could have, explaining: “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.”

He added that the government’s “refusal” to fund the proposed post-Covid recovery plan last year means it has effectively “abandoned the most vulnerable children in society a second time by decimating the support schools can offer during a renewed time of crisis.”

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

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