Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on a survey conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the Sutton Trust, showing that two thirds of primary school heads have insufficient catch-up funding.
“These stark findings reinforce the point that we and many others have repeatedly made – the government is failing to put enough money into education recovery following two years of disruption caused by the Covid pandemic. This comes against a background of a decade of underfunding of schools and colleges which has left budgets extremely tight and vulnerable to the impact of any extra costs.
“Over the course of the pandemic, many schools and colleges have faced huge extra bills to pay for supply cover for staff absence caused by Covid and while there has been a government scheme to provide some financial assistance it has been very limited, convoluted and insufficient.
“Now schools and colleges face soaring energy bills and it is hard to see any other conclusion to this situation than the necessity for more cuts along the same lines as those identified in the Sutton Trust research – support staff, IT equipment, trips, outings, sport and extracurricular activities.
“We note the finding that a third of primary and secondary headteachers report using their pupil premium to plug gaps in their general budget. To be clear, this is a situation which is forced by the paucity of funding. The reality is that the funding which arrives in schools is the only means of paying the bills regardless of the pots into which it is notionally divided, and if the general level of funding is inadequate there is no choice other than to use all available resources to keep the school open, running and staffed.
“We recognise that the government has improved education funding in recent years, but this follows a long period in which funding has been completely insufficient and budgets have been under huge strain. The financial situation continues to be extremely challenging, and with rising inflation and energy costs, it is set to become a great deal worse.”