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(UK) SPED: 'Beyond crisis in schools, it’s sucking money from budgets'

Sept 8, 2021, Schools Week: Two-thirds of heads warn schools face cuts despite ‘record’ funding

Two-thirds of primary school leaders say sharp cutbacks could be needed to balance their books in two years’ time, according to a union survey. The NAHT union warned almost a third of those polled had already made cuts in the past year, with some heads revealing they had cut teaching assistant and site manager roles and were struggling to afford psychologists and school trips. It marks a sharp rise on the 48 per cent who warned of more immediate deficits in 2021-22 and 2022-23 unless they take drastic action. Just 16 per cent of school leaders expect to balance the books or have money left over in 2023-24, down from 50 per cent in 2021-22. The figures come in spite of the “record funding packages” trumpeted by education secretary Gavin Williamson last week. Ministers have repeatedly highlighted a £7.1 billion [$9.8] package of extra cash being ploughed into schools 2019 and 2023. They are likely to heap further pressure on Williamson to secure extra funding for education at the next government spending review, which he has told broadcasters he is pushing for…. The NAHT said rising expectations of budget problems in future years could reflect predicted spending on projects or costs which had been delayed during the pandemic. The most commonly highlighted existing budget pressures were providing more SEND and mental health support, Covid safety measures and lost income such as lettings, and increased salary costs. The NAHT shared examples of members’ experiences. Lesley Roberts, head of a Berkshire primary school, said she could not afford a caretaker or SENDco. “Special needs is beyond crisis in schools, it’s sucking the money from budgets,” she said. Helen Spearing, head of a Staffordshire primary, said school trips had been restricted and teaching assistant salaries reduced to term-time only. Another leader said their school had been without access to an educational psychologist for a year. “The government is forcing schools to cut back on staff, support for pupils, and activities that enrich the school day,” said Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT…. A DfE spokesperson said it had overseen “the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade”, with funding rising 3.2 per cent next year overall. High-needs funding will rise 9.6 per cent in 2022-23 and the government “remains focused” on completing the SEND review, he added.


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