Tens of millions of parents will be able, from next April, to know the precise level of the budget cuts affecting the public schools attended by their children, thanks to an information campaign by the teachers’ unions.
The planned cuts to be imposed on every school in England and Wales – with figures detailing what this means per pupil – will be available on a revamped version of the school cuts website, run by the unions and which will be unveiled this week .
At present, the site only gives retrospective data, for the 2021-22 financial year. But in the hope of getting parents to lobby their MPs on the issue before the next general election, the National Education Union (NEU), with the support of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), will launch a new site showcasing data for the coming year.
The unions will also post messages on social media indicating the level of planned cuts to schools in the constituencies represented by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.
In the Sunak constituency of Richmond, North Yorkshire, unions say four schools will lose more than £100,000 in the year from April 2023, 40 of which will see cuts of more than £100 per pupil. About 75% of schools in the constituency are facing cuts.
The unions say the calculations are based on official but hardly available government data on school funding from the last comprehensive spending review. They also factored in the Bank of England’s inflation forecast and conservative estimates of school cost increases, such as a 2% increase in teachers’ salaries and higher energy bills.
The unions say the data has been independently verified by leading economists, who conclude it is reliable. If funding changes affecting school budgets are made in Hunt’s financial statements on Nov. 17, the data will be immediately adjusted.
The unions’ latest move comes after Hunt made it clear that all government departments, including education, would have to make cuts as part of the government’s debt reduction plan.
On Saturday, Sunak told the Time that he needed to be honest with people about the economic challenges ahead, especially the need to reduce borrowing and inflation. He said: “It’s not leadership to pretend there is an easy short-term fix…I prefer to be honest with people about what it will take to get us where we need to be.”
As recently reported by the Observernine out of 10 schools in England expect to run out of money by next school year as the huge burden of rising energy bills and wages take their toll.
The NAHT says 50% of headteachers believe their school will be in deficit this year, with almost all expecting to be in the red by next September when their reserves run out.
Many headteachers working in substandard and even unsafe school buildings also worry that funding pledges for reconstruction and renovation could fall victim to cuts in the allocation for school capital projects.
A Ministry of Education report on the condition of schools and their buildings has been delayed. Emails disclosed to Observer earlier this year showed that the dangerous state of many schools was one of the biggest concerns within the department – and that officials were pushing for more money from the Treasury to fund reconstructions.
DfE staff have called on the Treasury to urgently make additional billions available to increase the number of school reconstruction projects from 50 a year to more than 300.
James Bowen, policy officer at NAHT, said: “The government must accelerate the school reconstruction programme. Under current plans to rebuild 50 schools per year, it will take over 440 years to repair and replace all the schools. It is woefully insufficient.
“There are now parts of the school grounds that are in a dangerous state. The Department for Education assessed the condition of almost every school in England between 2017 and 2019. It’s only right that there is now full disclosure of what has been found. Parents and school staff deserve to know the risk.
The DfE said it would publish a report on the condition of school buildings by the end of the year. He added: “Since 2015 we have allocated over £13billion to improve the condition of school buildings and facilities, including £1.8billion this financial year.”