Headteachers issue urgent appeal to ministers over looming schools cash crisis
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press, Archant
Headteachers have today warned of a looming financial crisis due to hit schools next term, which could lead to teacher redundancies, larger class sizes and some subjects being dropped altogether.
They have issued an urgent appeal to ministers to help tackle the consequences of changes coming in 2015-16, when schools will have to pay more in teacher pension costs and national insurance contributions.
These increased costs mean some schools will have to save hundreds of thousands of pounds from other areas of their budgets, which they warn will hit the quality of education they provide.
The increased costs – which will come into force for all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools – follow a government pledge not to cut school budgets in the next five years. But one headteacher said that the extra costs meant cuts, 'without doubt'.
The Department for Education said it had delayed the pensions increase to September to give schools more time to plan, and would protect school budgets.
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Some schools, including academies run by the Transforming Education in Norfolk (Ten) group, have already announced job losses, partially caused by the national funding situation. Schools with rising pupil numbers may see extra income generated by an increase in children help to cushion the blow, but those with falling rolls will be hit especially hard.
An EDP survey among headteachers from our area found that:
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• one said they were planning to lose three teaching posts, and six non-teaching posts.
• another said 12 non-teaching staff were likely to go to balance the budget.
• at one school, two teaching posts and two non-teaching posts were likely to be lost.
• at another, the financial situation was described as 'bleak'.
• Some schools are looking at not replacing staff when they leave, merging classes or scrapping more expensive courses that fewer A-level students take, such as design technology, arts and music.
A separate survey, by headteacher associations across the eastern region, found 66pc of high school heads felt they did not have enough funds over the next 12 months to provide sufficient resources to deliver high quality education.
A total of 43pc said their school's financial situation was 'critical' or 'very serious' in 2015-16; 69pc said the same for the following year.
Of more than 200 primary heads who responded, all said they would reduce classroom-based support staff, and 40pc said they would reduce teaching staff, over the next two years.
The headteacher organisations have written to all MPs in the region, as well as education secretary Nicky Morgan and schools minister Nick Gibb to highlight their findings.
Brian Conway, chairman of the Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders group, said: 'Certainly there will be effects on children's education, and as heads we feel we have a responsibility to bring this to the attention of MPs in the hope they will take action, and also so the public is aware, if there are challenging times in the schools, they are not of the heads' making.'
He called for the pension changes to be withdrawn, or phased in over a longer period.
A Department for Education spokesman said: 'As with all other public sector employers, schools will have to contribute more towards pensions to ensure costs can be met in future.
'We have delayed the increase to September to give schools time to plan and have provided advice for schools about the changes.
'In this Parliament we will protect the schools budget, which will rise as pupil numbers increase, and look at what more needs to be done to ensure that all local areas are fairly funded.'
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