Heads of secondary schools across England are warning MPs of cuts to mental health provision, school trips and essential building repairs because rising costs and energy bills are ravaging their budgets.
Ahead of the government’s autumn statement on November 17, leaders are telling MPs and local councilors about their efforts to adjust their budgets to cover the unexpected costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds in higher wages and bills.
The Westminster Secondary School Improvement Collaborative – which represents 12 state schools in the London Borough of Westminster – has written to MPs warning of “a funding crisis which will seriously hamper our ability to provide for our students and their families theirs”.
School bosses say the biggest staff pay rise announced by the Department for Education (DfE) alone is costing a Westminster City school an extra £145,000 from its budget for this year, forcing it to delay repairs essential in the science block of the school.
The school group said areas such as mental health support for pupils, as well as extra-curricular activities such as clubs and trips, careers advice and extra help for struggling students “would be limited or cut altogether as a result of reduced funding. “.
Kat Pugh, headteacher at St Marylebone Church of England school and a signatory to the letter, said her school had budgeted for extra mental health counseling and mentoring for pupils.
“But now we can’t do that. We can’t afford it,” she said. “It would be good to have more counseling, it would be good for students to have more career advice. But we have to cut back to a minimum.”
Meanwhile, MPs in Worcestershire have been warned by a consortium of 32 schools in the county that they face staff cuts, reduced maintenance spending and budget deficits.
The letter from the Worcestershire Association of Secondary Headteachers is asking MPs for “an immediate increase in school funding to cover additional unfunded staff costs”, as well as a commitment that future pay rises will be fully funded, and a plan to compensate schools for higher. energy bills next year.
Schools are operating on set budgets ahead of the sudden rise in energy costs and the DfE’s belated decision to increase teacher pay by around 5% instead of the previously announced 3%.
Bryn Thomas, headteacher of Wolverley C of E High School near Kidderminster, said his school had an annual budget of around £6m, of which just over £5m went to staff.
“Of the £900,000 left to run the school, I have to find £150,000 to £200,000 [for higher pay]and on top of that the energy bills are going up and we have to pay for inflation on everything else,” Thomas said.
“It’s not a case of just not buying any new books. There just isn’t enough money.”
Thomas said despite funding pressures, pay must improve to stop teachers leaving the profession. He said some teachers were taking second jobs as pizza deliverymen to make ends meet.
The DfE said schools in England were being supported by an extra £4bn this year, taking core funding to £53.8bn. He said all schools will benefit from the government’s energy relief scheme, limiting the amount they need to spend on energy and giving them greater security.
However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that the government will fall short of its promise to increase spending on schools to 2010 levels – with spending now expected to be lower in real terms by 2024.