POLITICS
18/04/2019 00:01 BST

Two-Thirds Of Headteachers Cutting Staff To Save Cash

New report underlines funding crisis with money targeted at disadvantaged children used to plug gaps.

Most secondary school heads have been forced to cut teachers to save money, a new poll underlining the scale of the education cash crisis has revealed. 

Over two-thirds (69%) of secondary school leaders said they had no choice but to shave teaching staff numbers, the Sutton Trust’s survey of 1,678 teachers found. 

Around a quarter of heads (27%) have also redirected pupil premium cash - money targeted specifically at disadvantaged children - to pay for teaching staff and to plug gaps elsewhere in their budget. 

While a much smaller proportion (32%) of primary school leaders said they’d had to cut teachers, almost two-thirds (72%) reported cutting teaching assistants. 

Two-fifths (41%) of both primary and secondary school heads, meanwhile, cut back on trips and over a half (55%) slashed spending on IT equipment.

When it came to pupil premium spending, heads in the most deprived schools were twice as likely to use it to plug gaps as those in the least deprived schools (34% v 17%).

The survey will pile pressure on Chancellor Philip Hammond to act.

It follows a series of warnings about the paucity of school funding, with headteachers marching on parliament to deliver a petition earlier this year. 

Ministers insist they are pumping more money into schools but an analysis by the respected think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found per pupil funding in English school fell by 8% between 2010 and 2018. 

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chairman of the Sutton Trust, is calling for politicians to release more funding.

Ministers need to stop denying that school budgets are being cut in the face of all the evidence and make sure we don’t jeopardise the education of an entire generationRehana Azam, national secretary for GMB

He said: “Our new polling adds to the growing evidence that the squeeze on school budgets is having a detrimental effect.

“Of particular concern is that schools are having to use funding for poorer pupils to plug gaps in their finances. Many are having to get rid of teachers to close these funding gaps and endangering efforts to improve opportunities for poorer young people.” 

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said the survey was “the latest evidence of the terrible toll” of austerity, adding: “Teaching assistants often provide dedicated services for the pupils who most need extra support and these figures suggest they have been the first to suffer from the government’s cuts.” 

Rehana Azam, national secretary for GMB, a union which represents teaching assistants, said “cuts have a terrible impact” on children.

She said: “Ministers need to stop denying that school budgets are being cut in the face of all the evidence and make sure we don’t jeopardise the education of an entire generation.”

The Department for Education said the new funding formula for schools was fairer and handed more cash to disadvantaged areas. 

A spokesman added: “We recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and have introduced a wide range of practical support to help schools and head teachers, to help schools make the most of every pound on non-staff costs. 

“We have also provided schools with funding for additional pressures – such as an extra £940m to cover increased pension costs for 2019/20 so state-funded schools and colleges can focus their resources on providing the best education.

“The Secretary of State has made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back head teachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world class education.”