School leaders are struggling to balance the books as looming hikes in national insurance and pension contributions become a reality.
The government’s proposals, due to start in the 2015-16 academic year, leave some schools scrambling to cut more than £200,000 from their budgets.
They come amid dwindling education service grants and a rise in teacher pay and inflation, and leave schools leaders warning of public-sector style cuts, including job losses.
Micon Metcalfe (pictured), business director at Dunraven School in south London, told Schools Week: “It’s incredibly challenging. I have been working in schools since 1998 and this is the most stressful it has felt. Schools are probably going to face some of the hard decisions similar to other public services.”
Pension contributions will rise from 14.1 per cent to 16.5 per cent from September. Schools will then be hit later in the year with a hike in national insurance payments, with the standard contribution going up from 10.4 per cent to 13.8 per cent.
One struggling school has said this will mean an extra £1,100 cost per teacher, while unions warn that it could result in tens of thousands of job losses.
Ms Metcalfe said: “Up to 80 per cent of income is used on salaries – that’s where we are going to have to look for efficiencies.”
Calculations for Leeds School Forum – a group of representatives from the city’s state schools – estimate £378 million, or the equivalent of 27,000 teaching posts, will be lost from budgets next year. This will rise to £1.1 billion in 2016-17.
Baylis Court School in Slough, Berkshire, is facing a £222,216 shortfall, prompting headteacher Deborah Ajose to write to Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart. “These increases in costs are nothing to do with the choices we have made, they have all been imposed as
the result of decisions made by government,” she said.
“For schools that do not benefit from any of the additional £390 million distributed to the lowest funded authorities, all of this additional money will have to be found from existing school budgets. If there is no change to this policy, it will inevitably mean we will have to reduce the opportunities we are able to offer our children.”
When Ms Mactaggart raised the issue in Parliament earlier this month, education secretary Nicky Morgan brushed off her concerns saying that schools had already “raised standards during straitened budgets.”
At its annual conference this weekend, the Association of School and College Leaders will call for a national fair funding formula. It wants money to be dished out on the basis of what schools need, rather than the current historic allocations.
It has highlighted a nearly £2 million difference in funding for schools. Ms Metcalfe said: “A school with good balances will have two years to plan. But some are already getting into difficulty and, in my view, there will be more.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “As with all other public sector employers, schools will have to contribute more towards pensions to ensure the costs can be met in future.
“We have delayed the increase by five months to September to give schools time to plan how they will meet the additional cost.
“We have protected the schools budget in this Parliament and are providing £390 million to the least fairly funded areas in the country.”