School business leaders warn of cuts to pupil support and staff numbers

Funding pressures will force more schools to reduce individual support for pupils and staff numbers, school business leaders have warned.

In a survey of 238 school business leaders by the Association of School and College Leaders, 56 per cent said cost savings have reduced individual support over the past year, and 65 per cent expect savings over the next 12 months to have a similar effect.

The results also show widespread cutbacks in staffing levels. Over the last year, 34 per cent said the senior leadership team had been reduced, 41 per cent said teacher numbers had been cut and 77 per cent said support staff had lost.

In the next 12 months, 21 per cent said the senior leader team will be reduced, 43 per cent said they expected to reduce the number of teachers and 64 per cent expect to cut back on the number of support staff.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of ASCL, described the survey findings as “stark”, and claimed the work of schools will be “increasingly eroded” unless the government takes “urgent action over the school funding crisis”.

“The ability to provide individual support to students – working with often vulnerable young people to overcome barriers to learning – will be further undermined. Hard-won standards are being put at risk by chronic government underinvestment.”

Twenty-three per cent found that mental health support has reduced at their schools in the past year, and 32 per cent expect it to reduce over the next 12 months. More than half (51 per cent) noted reduced curriculum options and 47 per cent less enrichment activities in the last year, rising to 54 per cent expecting cuts over the next year in both categories.

Nearly all respondents to the survey (99 per cent) had made cost savings over the past 12 months, with 46 per cent saying this amounted to over £100,000. Ninety-two percent expect to make savings in the next year, with 40 per cent saying this will amount to more than £100,000.

Half the schools business leaders said their school was currently running with an in-year deficit, with 60 per cent expecting to be in deficit in the next financial year.

ASCL, which released the survey ahead of its conference for business leaders on Thursday, said the cutbacks were a result of government spending on education failing to keep pace with rising costs, with £2.8bn cut from school budgets since 2015.