Majority of school leaders face cutting staff in the next year to balance books

More than half of school leaders face making staff redundant in the next 12 months under “severe” financial pressures, a new survey has found.

The 2015 School Leaders Survey – published today by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and law firm Browne Jacobson – found the majority of schools (55 per cent) are looking at cutting their staffing levels.

Of those, nearly four in five teachers (78 per cent) were looking to slash teaching staff and a similar number are targeting support staff.

The findings come amid claims schools are at breaking point under funding pressures and escalating recruitment problems.

Schools Week reported earlier this week that one school had taken the “unprecedented step” of consulting parents on giving regular cash contributions to its running costs, in face of increasing costs and flat budgets.

We are failing to put enough money into that investment and without urgent action we will pay a long-term price

Nick Mackenzie, education partner at Browne Jacobson, said: “Many schools are clearly living on a financial knife-edge with some facing the daunting prospect of having to reduce their staffing levels by as much as one-fifth.”

He has urged Chancellor George Osborne to introduce additional measures to ease the financial burden of the worst funded schools before the spending review next week.

More than 1,300 school leaders responded to the annual survey. They included headteachers and principles (45 per cent), academy chain chief executives and business managers.

A total of 61 per cent of respondents will be looking to cut between 2-5 per cent of their total workforce. More than one third of school leaders (36 per cent) are planning to reduce the overall size of their leadership teams.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the ASCL, said: “School leaders do everything in their power to minimise the impact on their pupils, but budget reductions on this scale inevitably mean cutting courses and increasing class sizes.”

He said the union is particularly worried about the “woefully inadequate” level of funding for post-16 education which is having a “detrimental impact on school sixth forms and colleges”.

It was reported this week that a Birmingham school plans to close its sixth form, following two more closures reported by Schools Week last month.

Mr Lightman added: “We are failing to put enough money into that investment and without urgent action we will pay a long-term price.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This government is taking the difficult decisions necessary to ensure that the schools budget is protected and will continue to rise as pupil numbers increase. This is a key part of our commitment to extending opportunity and delivering educational excellence everywhere.”

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