A joint survey of members by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has revealed that secondary schools are addressing funding shortages by cutting academic subjects.
The unions claim that the survey of 1,200 teachers, support staff and heads shows that issues with funding are having a significant impact on children’s education. It also shows that schools are starting to take drastic action to address budget shortfalls.
At a time when cuts are starting to extend beyond non-education expenditure and affect frontline spending, HCSS Education explores the benefits of their curriculum planning software, which can accurately forecast changes to subject and staff spending.
Funding crisis slimming secondary school curriculum
Released ahead of the ATL annual conference today, the ATL/NUT survey shows that more than three-quarters (76%) of teachers, support staff and heads said that their school had seen its budget cut this year compared to last year.
Additionally, 93% of respondents said that they were ‘pessimistic’ about their funding prospects across the next three years.
Interactive NUT map showing funding changes across regions
Funding pressures, such as those associated with the National Funding Formula changes and staffing cost increases appear to have had a more significant impact on secondary schools compared with primary schools.
71% of staff at secondary schools reported cuts to teaching posts in the past year, more than double the amount reported by staff at primary schools (31%).
In secondaries, the impact of staff and subject cuts appears to be concentrated on subjects that are outside the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) performance measure, with 61% of respondents reporting cuts to non-EBacc subjects.
64% of secondary staff also reported fewer vocational options available at their school and nearly a quarter (24%) said that their school had cut teaching hours for courses.
In a range of comments published alongside the survey, teachers confirmed that pupils’ educational options were being narrowed.
A separate survey conducted earlier in the year by the Association of School and College Leaders (ACSL) found secondary schools were scrapping some GCSE subjects in significant volumes.
The GCSE subjects that were most commonly removed from the curriculum were design and technology (44%), performing arts courses (26%), music (18%), German (18%), art and design options (16%), drama (14%), Spanish (8%) and French (6%).
The Department for Education maintains that school funding is at record levels, but the National Audit Office said that funding was not keeping pace with staffing costs like rising national insurance and pension costs.
The ATL/NUT survey found that many schools were looking to parents to help bridge gaps in funding.
49% of respondents asked parents to pay for items to help their child’s education, including text books (10%) and art and technology materials (12%).
16% of secondary respondents said that their school had asked parents directly for money to help fund the school. While 44% said that they were renting out school buildings and 26% said they were renting out school grounds.
ATL general secretary Mary Bousted warned: “Unless the government finds more money for schools and fast, today's school children will have severely limited choices at school and children from poorer families will be even further disadvantaged because their parents may struggle to provide the resources schools can no longer afford.”
NUT general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “Parents cannot sit back and watch their children's education harmed by this bargain basement approach to schooling. More money must be found for our schools.
“Our government must invest in our country and invest in our children.”
Make informed decisions about curriculum spending
In response to rising costs and changes to funding, many schools have already cut non-education expenditure right down to the bone.
Now that non-education spending has been cut as much as possible, schools are under increasing pressure to reduce their spending on the curriculum and the teaching staff that help deliver it.
Staffing costs can make up some 80% of a typical school’s budget so it is critical that this money is used efficiently. Curriculum resource planning tools like HCSS Curriculum help education finance leaders ensure that they are using budgets in the most efficient way possible.
Developed with ASCL, HCSS Curriculum allows school leaders to understand their curriculum costs, and make better decisions about how staff can be deployed most efficiently.
When tough decisions, like the withdrawal of a subject, have to be made, HCSS Curriculum allows school leaders to model cost savings accurately and assess other impacts, like the impact on staffing, before any changes are finalised.
The software also allows school leaders to produce a wide range of reports, which can be used to persuade key stakeholders like department heads and governors about the merits or demerits of any decision.
School leaders can save 20% when they purchase HCSS Curriculum and HCSS Budgeting together. ASCL members can also get a 20% discount on the curriculum planner.