Two-fifths of headteachers axe school trips to save money

Two-fifths of headteachers say they have had to cut back on school trips in an effort to save money.

According to a poll for The Sutton Trust, an educational charity which aims to improve social mobility, more than two thirds of secondary school senior leaders have also cut back on teachers (69 per cent) and teaching assistants (70 per cent) as budgets are squeezed.

The survey of 1,678 teachers revealed that 41 per cent of senior leaders in both secondary and primary schools have reduced school trips, as have 45 per cent of classroom teachers, while 55 per cent of heads in secondary schools have cut spending on IT equipment.

Twenty-seven percent of secondary school heads said they used pupil premium funding to plug gaps elsewhere in their budget, as did 22 per cent of primary heads, with the majority using it for teachers and teaching assistants instead. Heads in the most deprived schools were twice as likely to report using their pupil premium funding for budget gaps.

However, this actually seems to show a decrease in schools using pupil premium to plug budget gaps. Results from a similar poll carried out by the Sutton Trust two years ago showed that 32 per cent of primary school leaders and 27 per cent of secondary school heads were using their pupil premium funding in this way.

Fifty-five per cent of heads said they agreed or strongly agreed that pupil premium funding is helping to close gaps in attainment at school. However those who reported using the funding to plug budget gaps were less likely to say attainment gaps are closing.

The Sutton Trust is urging the government to ensure the spending review takes place as soon as possible to provide clarity for schools on funding and the continued support of pupil premium.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chair of the Sutton Trust, said the polling showed that cuts to school budgets are having a “detrimental effect”.

“Of particular concern is that schools are having to use funding for poorer pupils to plug gaps in their finances. Many are having to get rid of teachers to close these funding gaps and endangering efforts to improve opportunities for poorer young people.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Only a government with its fingers in its ears can continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence of the damage being done by real-terms cuts to school funding.

“It is important that the public understands this situation will get worse unless the level of school funding is improved as a matter of urgency. Schools will have to make more cuts and this will impact further on educational provision, making it difficult to maintain existing educational standards, let alone improve them further and narrow the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and other students.

“The reality of school leadership is increasingly one of having to decide on what is the least-worst option about where to cut next.”

In January, the Department for Education announced that secondary schools can apply for a slice of £2.5 million funding to take disadvantaged pupils on trips abroad, in move intended to improve language skills.

A spokesperson for the DfE said: “We recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and have introduced a wide range of practical support to help schools and head teachers, to help schools make the most of every pound on non-staff costs… The secretary of state has made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back head teachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world class education.”