DfE says rising energy costs will have ‘relatively small impact’ on school budgets

Government has told leaders they can shoulder 'cost pressures' from recent funding rises

Government has told leaders they can shoulder 'cost pressures' from recent funding rises

The DfE has announced it will send out more CO2 monitors to schools as new data shows a steep increase in severe flu cases

Soaring energy bills will have a “relatively small impact” on a school’s budget, the Department for Education has said.

Government has instead told leaders they can shoulder “cost pressures” from recent rises in core school funding.

An investigation by Schools Week last year first revealed leaders were budgeting tens of thousands of pounds as electricity and gas costs were set to rise by 50 per cent.

For some schools, this is starting to bite as fixed term contracts come to an end.

Stuart Guest, headteacher of Colebourne Primary School in Birmingham, said their school’s bills have gone up by £56,000 for next year, taking the total bill to £121,000.

The school only took out a one year contract this month in the hope prices will eventually drop.

Last week, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a support plan of £350 per household. Energy regulator Ofgem predicts some customers will see bills increase by £693 a year from April.

A DfE spokesperson said they “recognise schools may be facing cost pressures in the coming months, particularly where energy prices have increased”.

But they added “even while costs are rising, inflation in this area would have a relatively small impact on a school’s budget overall”.

Energy costs made up just 1.4 per cent of academy trust spend in 2019-20 they said. For maintained schools this was 1.3 per cent.

The spokesperson added core schools funding will increase by £4 billion in 2022-23, marking a five per cent real terms per pupil boost which “will help schools to meet wider cost pressures, including energy prices”.

But Guest said he wants DfE to “at least talk to schools” about this, as for some it could equate to the cost of several new teaching assistants, a teacher or even redundancies.

Cost concerns are also exacerbated by having to keep classroom windows open to try and control the spread of Covid.

“We get our daily emails from [DfE], at least acknowledge this is going to be tricky and giving us information about what’s coming up,” Guest added.

“We are already fighting a tide of Covid and all the extra costs associated with that. We are oozing money because of Covid, this is the nail in the coffin or schools budgets.”

Sharan Matharu, a headteacher at Elizabeth Woodville School, in Northampton, told LBC last month their bills had gone up by £67,000 to £205,000 a year.

“And that’s the contract we signed based on usage previously,” she said.

“I’m a little bit worried it might be slightly higher because the usage is up due to all the windows and doors being open all the time.”

Schools Week has also heard how one north east school has seen a 33 per cent hike in their bill, despite being on a fixed tariff with a small firm.

The head, who wished to remain anonymous, said their contract’s terms and conditions state the energy company has the right to raise prices at any time, adding: “There’s absolutely nothing we can do.”

DfE said there are a “range of tools” schools can use to “help them get the best value from their resources, including recommended deals for energy costs and services related to energy”.

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  1. Are the DfE for real?
    We’ve seen one school go from £80k a year on gas, to over £500,000. And the phrase they used when seeing those increases was “heart attack inducing.”
    Just a relatively small impact though….