Schools heading for ‘funding crisis’ over Covid measures

Pupils wearing face masks in school.

Schools are facing costs from coronavirus measures including extra cleaning and staffing. - Credit: PA

Schools in Norfolk struggling with the mounting financial costs of combating coronavirus in classrooms could be left in deficit.

Headteachers have warned schools are spending tens of thousands they would not otherwise need to on PPE, extra cleaning staff and materials and bringing in additional staff to cover those forced to isolate. 

Social distancing measures as a child studies on a marked table.

Social distancing measures as a child studies on a marked table. - Credit: PA

From September, schools were told they were expected to pay for any additional costs from their existing budgets.

Binks Neate-Evans, executive principal at Evolution Academy Trust, which has primary schools in Norwich, said existing funding would not cover additional costs. 

She said: “Schools are under huge pressure because we are juggling every day to keep schools Covid secure but with huge worries about where this money is coming from. It is throwing many schools already into a budget deficit.

Binks Neate-Evans. Picture: Supplied by Binks Neate-Evans

Binks Neate-Evans executive principal at Evolution Academy Trust. - Credit: Binks Neate-Evans

“Budgets were really tight anyway and we are hearing about schools, not specifically my schools, where they will have a budget for supply teachers they have already spent that in the first three or four weeks of the new term. So we are heading for a funding crisis.”

Schools that overspend could face intervention by the local authority or the regional schools commissioner who could take over running of the finances including staff costs, which make up 80pc of most school budgets.

Pupils in social bubbles in school.

Schools are facing huge extra staffing costs to cover classes where teachers are self-isolating. - Credit: Getty Images

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Unions have warned that many schools are already in a financial deficit. 

Des Hart, regional rep at the National Education Union, said: “It’s becoming increasingly obvious the problems that schools are facing. We are hearing some have spent their entire supply budget already, so what are they going to do for the next two terms?”

Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders, said some schools in the region had 30 members of staff having to self-isolate.

He said: “You look to supply teachers but there are two problems with that; it's increasingly difficult to find enough of them and secondly it is very expensive. There are some secondary schools in Norfolk that are spending £5,000 or £6,000 a week on supply costs.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders.

Geoff Barton, general secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders. - Credit: Archant Library

In September schools minister Nick Gibb said the need for additional funding was being kept under review. But schools were not mentioned in this week’s treasury spending review. 

Mr Barton said: “If you are a headteacher or a parent that will feel like a bit of technicality because you need that money now."

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