Class sizes will be first casualties of education cuts


A new survey has found that 85% of schools fear that this year’s cuts to budgets may have an adverse effect on teaching standards in the UK, with class sizes and extra-curricular activities becoming the first casualties. 

The survey, conducted by independent finance provider, Syscap, found that:

  • 45% of schools say that an increase in class sizes is likely, with a further 45% saying that it is possible
  • 39% of schools are expecting to have to make redundancies amongst their permanent teaching staff, with a further 36% saying that redundancies may be necessary
  • 51% of schools say the that the extra-curricular activities on offer at schools will have to be cut back, and a further 39% say this may be necessary

However, the survey also found that the majority of schools hope to mitigate the impact of budget cuts by finding savings through the use of new management and buying techniques. 

The majority of schools surveyed said the next twelve months could see them introduce new ways of working and managing their budgets in order to avoid making painful cuts to teaching and equipment budgets:

  • 58% of schools say that they are likely to use collective buying
  • 64% said they will seek to form shared service partnerships with other schools 
  • 64% said that they were likely to make greater use of school managers to manage their budget
  • 55% said that they would look for ways to spread the cost of investment in technology for their schools

Philip White, Chief Executive of Syscap said: “These results show that schools are more or less resigned to some unwelcome changes, starting with scaling back the range of extra-curricular activities they offer.”

“However, they are determined to do everything they can to protect the quality of the education that they offer and are happier to make major changes to the way they work than to contemplate making teachers redundant.”

“Heads know they are facing a very tough budget balancing act, and that the only way they can pull it off is through increasingly professionalised management and committing to collaborative projects such as collective buying or shared service partnerships.” 

“They also want to spread the cost of investment in new technology.  That has put financing methods like leasing at the top of schools’ agendas so it is particularly timely that the Department for Education has just issued a guide on successful leasing*.”

“Taken as a whole, these measures amount to a revolution in the way our schools are managed – controlling the school budget and keeping costs down is becoming a job in itself, and the new trend towards the use of school managers reflects that.”

Despite the best efforts of schools there will be some areas where the impact of under-investment will be immediately obvious.  This is especially true of schools who had applied for funding to expand or replace their school facilities through the cancelled Building Schools for the Future scheme.

The survey revealed that of the schools that have had their BSF applications curtailed, 84% had abandoned their plans to extend their buildings, only 27% were planning to refurbish existing buildings, and nearly half (45%) now needed to find other ways to fund emergency repairs.

Phillip White adds: “The cancellation of the BSF scheme has dealt a fatal blow to schools’ plans for new buildings – only 3% feel that they can continue with their building projects without this funding.”

“Moreover, a worryingly large proportion of schools that applied to the scheme seem to have deferred routine maintenance while their application was being considered, and are now facing bills for emergency repairs. Given that this year more of the schools capital budget was allocated to local authorities rather than directly to schools, schools may have to fight tooth and nail to get hold of the money for those repairs.”

School Leadership Today