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8 Nov, 2022 15:02

UK schools face ‘perfect storm’ – union

Head teachers are forced to cut staff hours and support programs amid the cost-of-living and energy crises
UK schools face ‘perfect storm’ – union

The majority of UK schools are considering staff cuts due to rising costs and insufficient funding, the school leaders’ union NAHT said on Tuesday, citing the results of the largest survey it has ever taken.

Of more than 11,600 respondents who took part in the survey, 66% said that they will have to make teaching assistants redundant or reduce their hours. Half of the poll participants said they were considering reducing the number of teachers or teaching hours.

“Education is truly in a perilous state,” Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said.

“With no fat left to cut following a decade of austerity, many thousands of schools are now looking at falling into deficit unless they make swingeing cuts.”

Among factors contributing to the “a perfect storm of costs” that schools are enduring, he named “spiraling costs to resources and supplies,” as well as the energy crisis, which was exacerbated by the anti-Russian sanctions and the decrease in Russian energy supplies to Europe.

The survey, conducted between September 27 and October 14, revealed that 51% of schools will take measures to reduce energy consumption, 58% plan to reduce investments in equipment, and 56% to cut down on maintenance expenses.

Whiteman warned that many support services for pupils, such as mental health or speech therapy, will become unavailable. Schools will not be able to afford to provide extra help for the poorest families either, he said.

As teachers in Scotland, England and Wales consider industrial action over the cost-of-living pressures, the Department for Education said that it is aware of the challenges schools are facing. It added, as quoted by the BBC, that all schools could benefit from the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and that the core funding for schools had risen to £53.8 billion this year.

Meanwhile, the Bank of England in its November report described the outlook for the UK economy as “very challenging” and predicted a “prolonged recession period.”

The regulator raised interest rates to a 33-year high of 3% in a bid to contain “too high inflation,” which is now at 10.1%.