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Schools forced to cut teaching posts to save cash
Real terms cuts to school funding since 2015 have led to a big reduction in the number of secondary teachers, teaching assistants and support staff in England.
According to research published by the School Cuts alliance of education unions, schools have been doing all they can to shield their pupils from the damage caused by £2.8 billion being cut from school budgets since 2015, but the “lack of investment is really biting”.
These cuts are now undeniably affecting front-line teaching.
The latest School Cuts research – drawn solely from government figures – shows that staff numbers in secondary schools have fallen by 15,000 between 2014/15 and 2016/17 despite having 31,000 more pupils to teach. This equates to an average loss of 5.5 staff members in each school since 2015; in practical terms this means 2.4 fewer classroom teachers, 1.6 fewer teaching assistants and 1.5 fewer support staff.
According to the National Education Union (NEU), the cuts to front-line teaching posts are happening at a time when pupil-to-classroom teacher ratios are rising, which means bigger classes and less individual attention for children.
These average figures also mask significant regional variation. Despite the government’s claims to be concerned about underfunded areas, some of the largest staffing cuts are in the areas with the lowest average funding per pupil such as: Reading, Isle of Wight, Central Bedfordshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, York, Derby and Milton Keynes.
The NEU also state that the introduction of the National Funding Formula can’t solve this problem unless the funding cuts are reversed and significant extra resources included for underfunded schools. Four of the five worst hit local authorities – Middlesbrough, Reading, Isle of Wight, Doncaster – face further budget cuts over the next two years, even after taking into account any gains predicted by the Department for Education from its new funding formula. This will inevitably put even more pressure on staff numbers.
The situation is likely to get even worse, as it’s predicted that 17,942 (nine out of ten) primary and secondary schools in England and Wales will be hit by a real-terms cut in funding per pupil between 2015-19.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools have had to make substantial budget cuts because of government underfunding and this impacts on staffing numbers as staffing makes up the majority of their expenditure.
“As a result they are less able to give individual support to children, they cannot sustain a full range of curriculum options, and class sizes are rising. This is most damaging to children who need extra support and whose parents cannot afford to supplement their education with activities outside school. If the government is to live up to its promise to improve social mobility, it must give schools the funding that they need.”Read more