More than a third of school heads say they have had to cut teachers or teaching hours due to a Tory funding squeeze, a new survey has revealed.
And nearly three quarters expect to their budgets to be in the red in the coming year as Government cuts continue to bite.
The ‘Breaking Point 2018’ poll of heads, conducted by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), also found that 65% felt that savings they’ve had to make have had a “negative impact” on their pupils’ performance.
The survey shows that school leaders now follow a new ‘3 Rs’, with the words “reduction”, “reducing” and “redundancies” most commonly cited to describe their financial plight.
Among the findings are:
* More than a third (37%) of respondents said they have had to reduce the number or hours of teaching staff
* Almost three-quarters (71%) are expecting to have to set a deficit budget in the next financial year and almost four fifths (79%) are expecting a deficit budget for the following year 2019/20
* More than four fifths (86%) of respondents have reduced the hours or numbers of teaching assistants to make their 2017/18 budget balance. This figure was 49% in 2015.
* More than a fifth (21%) of respondents said that their budget for 2017/18 was in deficit; a 13 percentage point increase since 2015
* Only 8% of respondents said that they did not foresee a year where they would have an untenable deficit
* When asked which one factor was causing the greatest financial pressure on schools, ‘additional needs of some children’ was the key factor cited by 28% of respondents.
The annual survey lays bare the scale of the changes faced by teachers in recent years.
The percentage of heads who have been able to keep their budgets in the black by dipping into reserves has fallen from 76% in 2015 to just 41% today.
Labour and trade unions ran an effective campaign in the last general election, using a schools cuts website to allow parents to calculate planned reductions in funding in their local area.
Teachers and parents have complained that their schools lack basics like writing paper and some have been forced to crowdfund to raise cash for whiteboards and other items.
Michelle Gay, who runs Osborne primary school in Birmingham, told ITV News this week that shrinking budgets combined with increasing costs and demands were forcing headteachers to make cuts that were damaging standards and opportunities for pupils.
Fighting back tears, she explained how she had no choice but to cut the school week to four and a half days, spend less on paper and ban children from playing football because there is no money to replace the dangerous playing surface.
In her Conservative party spring forum speech, Theresa May conceded that some voters “question our motives” on education and health. “They wonder whether we care enough about our NHS and schools....they are a political fact which we must face up to,″ the Prime Minister said.
New Education Secretary Damian Hinds was recently criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for claiming that “real-terms funding per pupil is increasing across the system”.
The claim is incorrect because although per-pupil funding will increase in cash terms in the next two years, it will not take into account inflation and cost pressures, and does not therefore represent a “real-terms” rise.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “This poll adds further weight to the argument that school budgets are at absolute breaking point.
“No school is immune. Primary and Secondary, Academy and Local Authority, mainstream and specialist; the entire state-funded school system is rapidly heading towards insolvency. And as this research shows, the cuts are beginning to have an impact on children and education.
“Horrifyingly, 65% of respondents said they ‘strongly agreed’ that cut backs have already had a negative impact on the performance of their school. And only 8% of school leaders said that they did not foresee a year where they would have an untenable deficit.
“The government has tried to blame schools by suggesting that they are sitting on surpluses. Our data shows that whilst 76% of schools were able to dip into reserves in 2015, this year it is only 41%. Any rainy day money schools might have had has already been spent. The government’s only option now is to find more money for schools.”
The NAHT represents more than 29,000 school leaders in early years, primary, secondary and special schools.
The Department for Education insists that by 2020, core school funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion.
Ministers have seized on figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies that showed per pupil funding will have increased within two years to more than 70% since 1990.