A combination of rising costs, frozen budgets and a new method for distributing government funding is set to leave north east schools struggling to provide high standards of education.
Schools may be forced to sack teachers, class sizes could increase and schools may no longer be able to offer certain subjects.
Due to increasing costs – such as rising teacher wages, higher national insurance contributions and a heftier outlay on pensions – and a freeze in education funding from central government, schools are going to face what is in effect a funding cut.
The National Audit Office said schools would need to find an additional £3 billion by 2020, which would be equivalent to an 8% decrease in funding.
This could mean losses in funding totalling hundreds of pounds per pupil, with almost every school in the region seeing teachers depart.
The government’s new funding formula means that some schools will lose money while others will see a slight funding increase. But educational campaigners say that even these increases will not be enough to balance the rising costs all schools are facing.
The north east regional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Mike McDonald, said,
“The government is making a great play on the fact they’re protecting school budgets – in fact, what they’re doing is freezing and redistributing them, so the total sum is not increasing.”
“The difficulty is therefore that as numbers rise and employee costs rise then schools actually have to make cuts.”
The cuts will have a different impact on different areas of the north east. Schools in County Durham will lose the most, losing more than £20 million by 2020. But the biggest cuts per pupil will be felt in North Tyneside, with an estimated loss of £346 per child.
Newcastle will lose £344 per pupil, Northumberland £343 and South Tyneside £261.
Even within regions, some schools will be worse off than others. The hardest hit school will be the primary school on the island of Lindisfarne, which is likely to lose £7,893 per pupil.
In Newcastle, Walker Technology College is set to lose £776 per pupil, Excelsior Academy £747, Gosforth Academy £694 and Christ Church C of E Primary School £673.
The numbers of teachers likely to be lost will also vary. It is estimated that Sunderland will lose 374 teachers while Northumberland will lose 357.
The changes will have the harshest impact on the poorest pupils. According to research by the National Union of Teachers and the Child Poverty Action Group, the 1,000 schools in Britain with the highest proportion of pupils on free school meals will have to deal with average losses of £803 per pupil.
Mike McDonald said,
“You can’t make these sorts of savings by efficiency savings. 80-85% of school budgets go on staff wages, so the only way you can make those savings is by cutting staff.”
“That in turn leads to larger class sizes, less choice in the curriculum and teachers teaching outside of their specialist subject.”
“Some schools, the small primary schools in rural areas, they’re going to close because there’s no way they can manage those sorts of cuts.”
A government spokesperson said, “We want schools to have the resources they need and, through our careful management of the economy, we have been able to protect the core schools budget in real terms.”
“But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, outdated and opaque.”
“We are going to end the historic postcode lottery in school funding, and under the proposed national schools funding formula more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.”
You can express your views on the issue of school funding by going to www.consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/.
You can find out how schools in your area will be affected by visiting www.schoolscuts.org.uk.