Headteachers & Students
The majority of secondary school headteachers are preparing to offer their staff voluntary redundancy or early retirement in anticipation of huge
cuts to their budgets, it has emerged. The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), which represents 15,000 headteachers, warned that many of its members had started to discuss the likelihood of job losses with their staff's union representative. Headteachers in England are waiting to hear from their local authorities how much their budgets will be for the next financial year, which starts next month. Many have been forewarned of large cuts. Town halls in deprived inner-city areas of London and large cities in the north are facing the most drastic reductions of up to 8.9% this year alone. The shires and county councils are relatively protected by their burgeoning council tax revenue, but some schools face cuts because they have taken in fewer pupils this year. Demographic changes have led to a bulge in the number of pupils of primary school age and a drop in those of secondary school age. Speaking ahead of the ASCL's national conference in Manchester, its general secretary, Brian Lightman, said headteachers were facing difficult decisions. "The vast majority of schools in the country are looking at reductions of some kind," he said. "Many are consulting with their unions over early retirement and voluntary redundancy schemes." He said some headteachers were planning to reduce the subjects they offered pupils. This could save money because some staff would no longer be needed. "If you think you are going to have to reduce your staffing then you have to make every effort to consult with your staff and unions. This is what schools are doing."
He said one headteacher he had spoken to had been told by his local authority to expect a £300,000 cut to his £6m budget. Another had been told his £5m budget would be reduced by £180,000. The Department for Education (DfE) has said no school will see reductions in funding of more than 1.5% per pupil. This does not include the extra they will receive for each pupil on free school meals. The DfE has promised local authorities that they will not be cut by more than 2% even if they have a falling number of pupils. A spokesman for the DfE said: "Ministers are clear that this is the best possible settlement for schools considering the dire public finances. It protects cash levels nationally for every single pupil to cover rising numbers and demand for places, with the pupil premium on top for those that need the most support. We know that hard decisions may have to be made locally – that's why we've put in additional budget protections at school and local authority level." Heads know the needs of their school and where their money needs to be spent to have the biggest impact on schools – that's why we're expanding the academy programme to give them complete autonomy over their budgets and stripping out ringfences from local authority schools funding so they can target cash where it is most needed."