Over a quarter of all London schools have been forced to make budget cuts this year amid a lack of funding, a new survey has revealed.
Research published today by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) shows that of the 226 London schools who responded, 28 per cent have already had to make cuts to their budget for 2021/2022.
On top of this, a third of schools have predicted a deficit to their budget for this academic year based on current funding levels.
Among the reasons given for a heightened pressure on the budget of schools this year are the increasing costs of employing staff, increasing demand for support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, and a reduction in the numbers of pupils enrolling at school.
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For Gavin MacGregor, Headteacher of Southern Road Primary School in Plaistow, East London, these pressures have forced him into a difficult position: “The biggest issue is there has been a drop in pupil numbers.
“But the cost of everything else has gone up, we’re just not seeing the increases in the per-pupil funding to offset that.
“We have had to go through anything we subscribe to line by line and go through the value for money.”
According to MacGregor, the drop in pupils enrolling at Southern Road Primary School, currently attended by 600 pupils, is down to a combination of Brexit and the pandemic.
For 93 per cent of the school’s population, English is their second language, with many children being from Bengali, Urdu and Romanian backgrounds.
According to MacGregor, there has been a trend of families moving abroad in the wake of Brexit, something which was exacerbated by the pandemic.
The resulting drop in per-pupil funding, estimated by the headteacher to amount to approximately £300,000 over the past three years, has forced him to make some tough decisions regarding how the school spends its money, with elements of the broader curriculum taking the biggest hits.
“The amount of school trips we’re doing [are affected], because we can’t afford the coach travel.
“We are going out – we are doing things a bit more locally and trying to encourage that, but it’s very much that we have got to budget what we spend for things like coaches.”
The school has also had to scale back on taking part in access schemes like The Brilliant Club , designed to raise the aspirations of children and inspire them to go into further education.
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Vital in-school services have also been affected, according to MacGregor.
“We need more support for children with special educational needs.
“As the needs arise, we don’t have enough of the staff to support those children.”
Of the 11 members of staff that have left over the past few years, budget restrictions have meant that the headteacher has only been able to hire two to replace them.
Similarly, the school has had to scale back the mental health counselling it provides to pupils: “We fought really hard to ensure that we don’t lose that because it’s so important, particularly with the pandemic.
“Last year, we had counselling services three days a week, we couldn’t afford to do that this year.
“So we have gone to a different service, and they’re in for a day and a half.”
Funding for comprehensive schools comes from the Department for Education and is distributed by councils, with every school allocated a certain amount of money for every pupil enrolled.
This amount varies from constituency to constituency.
(Image: PA Archive/PA Images)
Schools have also been receiving extra funds to mitigate the impact of Covid and help students catch up after lockdown, but according to MacGregor the amount of extra funds doesn’t cover the necessary costs.
NAHT President Tim Bowen said: “The situation regarding school funding – for general budgets, pupils with special educational needs and the Covid recovery programme – is in a critical situation.
“Spending per-pupil in real terms is lower now than it was a decade ago and schools are responsible for so much more.
“The system is at breaking point.
“The Government needs to see education as investing in our country’s future, rather than a burden on the Exchequer.”
According to the NAHT, real-term funding for schools will be lower by 2023 than it was in 2010.
The NAHT’s research comes as the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that school spending per pupil in England fell by nine per cent in real terms between the academic years of 2009/2010 and 2019/2022, amounting to the largest cut in over 40 years.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “This government is providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade – £14 billion in total over the three years to 2022-23.
“This includes a £7.1 billion increase in funding for schools by 2022-23, compared to 2019-20 funding levels.
“Next year, funding through the schools national funding formula (NFF) is increasing by 2.8 per cent per pupil compared to 2021-22.
“The NFF continues to distribute this fairly, based on the needs of schools and their pupil cohorts.”
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