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Are schools being backed into a corner?

Updated: May 19, 2023

We are all too familiar with the term ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ by now. It’s everywhere you go and is affecting everyone. Predictions for the winter ahead are very much doom and gloom and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. So, for the foreseeable future we are stuck with the phrase: ‘Cost of Living Crisis’.

It seems that schools are in the crosshairs for this ‘doom and gloom’ too. Schools, like businesses, are not protected by the price cap on energy and are facing huge increases in the cost to heat their premises. Add that to the cost of pay rises that teachers have recently had (albeit lower than inflation but having to be paid out of the schools’ marginally increased budgets), and the alarm bells are starting to ring. The only positive here is that the school budget is due to increase by 7% per pupil. However, many headteachers warn that this is nowhere near going to be enough to balance books.

Rumours are rife that some schools are considering cutting the hours back or reducing the days to help battle the costs. This, however, is likely to cause upset with families and many question the actual savings of such actions. That said, something needs to give, and schools are facing near-on impossible decisions on how to save money. Increased class sizes, putting a stop to development projects and a pause on recruitment are more likely to be seen than a reduction in working hours.

Surely, any reduction in teaching hours would only have a negative affect on the children’s education – again this would only be seen as an unpopular move by parents and alike. Only as recently as March, the government released a document explaining its expectations that schools in England should be open for a minimum of 32.5 hours a week. Giving them until September 2023 to do this. Given that Ofsted have the right to question schools and ask them to justify the reasons behind their decisions should they choose to shorten the week, the pressure is really on schools to make the right decisions moving forward.

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