Further warnings over falling school budgets

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Schools across the country are approaching financial “breaking point” a union has said with Wigan schools facing a cut of £444 per pupil.

The latest warning comes from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) whose members have said they are being forced to tap into reserves.

This follows on from Wigan’s MP recently calling on the chancellor to release more funds for the education sector with the borough’s pot set to be slashed by £19m by 2020.

NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: “School budgets are being pushed even closer to breaking point than before.

“Schools are acutely feeling the impact of an estimated £3bn shortfall in the Government’s education budget by 2020 - the first real-terms cuts to education spending since the 1990s.

“The Government must take urgent action and commit to funding schools sufficiently in the next budget. It is time to stop viewing education spending as a cost and to start seeing it as an investment in England’s future, and in our children’s.”

An NAHT survey of 1,102 school leaders found widespread concern about budgetary pressures.

Nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) of respondents said their school was forced to tap into reserves and resort to spending cuts to make ends meet.

Similarly, 72 per cent said their budgets will be “unsustainable” by 2019, NAHT said.

Figures released in November suggested overall school funding in the borough is projected to be slashed by almost £19m by 2020. This works out at a £444 cut per pupil or a 10 per cent average fall per school.

Across the North West the losses are estimated to be £417m in total, the equivalent of 11,100 teachers, according to data from unions NUT and ATL.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has previously said: “Across the country we are already seeing increased class sizes, subjects being dropped from the curriculum, pupils with special educational needs and disabilities losing vital support and teacher and school staff vacancies being left unfilled.

“Without additional resources this already desperate funding situation in schools will only get worse.

“I am calling on the Chancellor to invest in education and protect funding.

The Government has promised an overhaul of the funding formula for schools in England.

But delays have hit plans for a national funding formula aimed at reducing inequalities in the system. It is due to be introduced in 2018/19.

A Department for Education spokesman said:”We have protected the core schools budget in real terms so that school funding will be over £40bn in 2016-17 - its highest level on record.

“We are also consulting on plans to end the disparity in the school funding system. These proposals will not only see more than half of England’s schools receive a cash boost in 2018-19 but will also give headteachers certainty over their future budgets, helping them make long term plans and secure further efficiencies.

“We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide advice and support to help them use their funding in cost-effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services, so they get the best possible value for their pupils.”

Labour shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: “The Tories can continue to hide their heads in the sand, but the funding crisis is real and it is already hitting schools. Headteachers should not be faced with a decision of whether to cut school staff or invest in new equipment.

“The Tories have no plan to deal with falling budgets.”