Chancellor Philip Hammond has been urged to use the Budget to pump more money into education after a new analysis claimed an extra 500 schools face real terms cuts.
Headteachers and trade unions demanded a cash injection as the figures, released to HuffPost UK, suggested that 17,942 primary and secondary schools were now in line for cuts in funding per pupil.
The assessment, on the updated schoolcuts.org.uk website, includes 500 more schools than previously estimated and brings to 90% the proportion of schools hit by austerity measures.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told HuffPost that the analysis proved schools were “at breaking point”.
The National Education Union said teachers were dipping into their own pockets to buy classroom essentials.
But the Department for Education countered that the union-backed website was “fundamentally misleading” because it was based on data from 2015/16, a year in which cost pressures have since been “absorbed” by many schools.
The Government also points to an extra £1.3bn offered in July, and declares that every school will see an increase in spending.
The new statistics are based on official DfE data, using core budget allocations as a baseline, as well as the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts for inflation until 2020.
Campaigners point out that the government’s headline figure uses school budgets for 2017/18 as a baseline, presenting the picture in cash terms only and ignoring the impact of rising costs and inflation.
Parents, school governors, and a delegation of more than 5,000 head teachers this week warned that the school funding crisis “is real”.
Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to halt the funding squeeze, pointing out that more parents were being asked to make voluntary contributions to buy basic school equipment. One school in May’s own constituency has begged parents for pens and sticky tape.
Ministers and Tory MPs have attacked the SchoolCuts website as ‘scaremongering’, but its creators point out that parents across the country have logged onto it in record numbers to find out just how much their local school is set to lose.
During the 2017 general election, the site played a powerful role in increasing Labour’s vote as it emerged schools and parents were forced to crowdfund for whiteboards, lockers and lollypop ladies.
A string of trade unions backing the cuts website told HuffPost UK of their worries.
Karen Leonard, GMB National Officer, said: “School staff are living in fear of the next round of job cuts or the next restructure, and pupils are suffering as a result. GMB is fighting to protect jobs in individual chains and schools but the education system desperately needs a national cash injection.”
National Association of Head Teachers chief Whiteman added: “School budgets are at breaking point. They need at least an extra £2bn per year to avoid having to cut staff, cut classes, or limit what they teach.
“The autumn budget is the last chance for money to make it to schools this year. Unless the Chancellor finds more money to protect education, we will be perilously close to the end of the line for high-standards.”
Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union, said: “Our recent survey showed that teachers are now paying for materials out of their own pockets to try and plug the gaps.
“This, however, is a crisis that goes far beyond a quick fix. The Chancellor needs to address this in his Budget by giving schools the money needed to ensure our children and young people get the education in the 21st century they both deserve and need.”
Jon Richards, Head of Education, UNISON, said: “Education budgets have been cut to the bone in recent years, and school support staff have suffered huge job losses. If the Government thinks it can make further cuts to staff and services with no impact on pupils, then it’s living in a fantasy world. The only thing that’s going to save schools, and ensure pupils get the decent, well-resourced education they need, is more money.”
Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary of Unite, said: “Education secretary Justine Greening should stop playing politics with statistics and ensure that there is a substantial real terms increase in education funding when Philip Hammond presents his budget next week.
“We need a generous tranche of ‘new’ money so our children have the education that they deserve so that they can lead fulfilling lives and contribute to the future economic welfare of the UK.”
But the Department for Education hit back hard.
A DfE spokesperson said: “The unions’ figures are fundamentally misleading. They are based on historical data and do not reflect the situation in our schools today. They also ignore the fact that school funding is driven by pupil numbers and, as pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.
“There are no cuts in funding – every school will see an increase in funding through the formula, with secondary schools set to receive at least £4,800 per pupil by 2019-20.
“The introduction of the National Funding Formula from 2018-19, backed by £1.3bn of additional investment, has been widely welcomed and will put an end to historic disparities in the system. As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed, overall schools funding is being protected at a national level in real terms per pupil over the next two years.”