90% of English schools face bankruptcy – The Observer
Schools in England are struggling to pay their electricity and heating bills, and 90% of them will run out of money next year, the Observer claimed on Saturday.
With the cost of living crisis already forcing some schoolchildren to go hungry, the government plans to cut spending across all departments.
The National Association of Head Teachers told the newspaper that 50% of their schools will be in deficit this year, with the figure rising to 90% by next September.
Power and heating bills at some schools have risen from £26,000 a year to £89,000 ($100,609), the report stated. On top of this increase, schools are having to fund a 5% teachers’ pay rise announced this summer.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce spending cuts to all departments, including education, at the end of the month.
Several school trusts told the newspaper that they are eating into their cash reserves to keep their buildings heated and their teachers paid. However, “there comes a point where we simply run out of money,” said Garry Ratcliffe, whose trust runs three primary schools in Kent.
Furthermore, Ratcliffe said he’s seen an increase in the number of families unable to pay their own bills or feed their children. “Families who have never required support before are coming to us,” he said. “There is a great sense of shame for the dad who works every hour he can but still has to walk into school and ask for help.”
A survey released last week by Chefs in Schools found that 83% of teachers reported children coming to school hungry because their parents were unable to afford food. Nearly a quarter said that children at their schools skipped lunch “due to poverty.”
Energy costs and inflation – which had been creeping upwards since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic – have skyrocketed since the UK decided to cut itself off from Russian fossil fuels. Outgoing Prime Minister Liz Truss exacerbated the economic crisis with a disastrous ‘mini-budget’ last month that crashed the British pound, and attempted to blame Britain’s economic woes on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Responding to The Observer’s latest report, a Department of Education spokesperson took a similar tack, blaming the “cost pressures” on schools on “international events,” and promising to offset the costs via an energy relief scheme.