Funding cuts to both primary and secondary schools could pile more pressure on the education system, a watchdog has warned. The cuts come at a time when schools are already facing increasing pupil numbers and the National Audit Office (NAO) has stated that the latest budget could put educational outcomes at risk. It’s likely that in order to meet the financial requirements some schools will have to scale back extra activities, such as trips, or cut back on new resources, like books and PE equipment.
The Department of Education has said its aim to find £3 million of savings by 2019-20 is achievable while still maintaining the current high standards of the education system. However, NAO has thrown this claim into doubt, noting that it’s uncertain how schools will react to the new budget and make the cuts, resulting in choices that put pupil learning at risk. The cuts represent an 8% cut in funding per pupil over the next three years in real terms.
The funding cuts are likely to concern parents that are deciding which schools to send their children. In recent years, schools have reported reducing their spending on teaching staff to stave off a deficit and the latest round could see this issue deepen further. While the NAO does state that there are some desirable cuts schools could make to improve efficiency, it also adds that there is a risk of schools making poorly informed decisions. In order to combat this the watchdog has urged the government to set out guidelines to make both finance and standards sustainable.
Around 60% of secondary schools are already facing shortfalls in cash and some head teachers have even warned that less funding could mean the need to cut down school hours after already having difficulty in buying basic equipment for pupil learning. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said that 6 in 10 schools need to spend more than government funding in order to provide every child with an education, putting their ability to meet their responsibility to children at risk. It’s also likely to have a significant impact on activities that fall outside of the curriculum but are still important parts of a child’s development, such as after school clubs and expanding library services.
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