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Schools in Wales look to reduce staff due to funding crisis, new survey shows

(Adobe Stock)

Today (Tues 8 Nov), school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru releases findings from a survey which received responses from 670 school leaders in Wales, revealing the desperate cuts schools are having to make in the face of rising costs and government underfunding.

The majority of schools in Wales report that they will have to make redundancies next year:

  • Around three quarters (73%) say they will have to make teaching assistants redundant or reduce their hours
  • More than half (61%) say they are looking at reducing the number of teachers or teaching hours

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: “Schools are being hit by a perfect storm of costs. In attempting to balance their budgets, school leaders are being faced with eye-watering energy bills, spiralling costs to resources and supplies, and the financial impact of an unfunded pay increase this year. With no fat left to cut following a decade of austerity, many thousands of schools are now looking at falling into deficit unless they make swingeing cuts. Education is truly in a perilous state.”

  • More than a third (38%) of schools say they will go into deficit this year, unless they make further cuts.
  • Just 5% of schools say they will be able to pay their costs next academic year (23-24) without going into deficit – meaning more than 9 in 10 schools won’t be able to balance their budgets without drastic action.

Since most schools are not permitted to operate a deficit budget, they must make significant cuts to remain in the black.

  • Close to half (48%) of schools said they would be forced to reduce non-educational support and services for children next year. This means cutting back on vital services such as counselling, therapy and mental health support.
  • Over half (56%) said they would have to reduce spending on additional targeted interventions for pupils requiring additional support. This means pupils needing extra help or those with ALN may not get the support they need.

Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, said: “Schools in Wales are undergoing the biggest education reform in decades, which has not been fully funded, and now they are being hit with spiralling costs and unfunded pay awards.

“New ALN legislation, the roll out of the New Curriculum for Wales and the implications of increasing the free school meal offer have simply not been taken into account. This leaves schools in a desperate state, having to balance their legal responsibilities around ALN, their duty to all learners to deliver quality education, their obligation to a FSM policy which was not thought through and their responsibilities to their teams around them.

“NAHT members are fully supportive of the inclusive curriculum, understanding better than anyone how important it is to deliver for their learners, but they are being asked to do so with one arm tied behind their backs.

“Unrealistic expectations are being placed on schools, and it is time the Local Authority employers and Welsh Government realise that the impact of underfunding will go far beyond redundancies, it will have an impact on a generation of learners.”

Mr Whiteman continued: “After a decade of austerity, schools have made all the easy savings already. The only things left to cut are things that will have a real immediate impact on children – and especially those who are already the most disadvantaged and vulnerable. This goes against everything school leaders strive for, and the anger and desperation I am hearing from my members is unprecedented.

“Schools are finding that they have no option but to make redundancies. A reduction in teaching assistants and teachers will be catastrophic, leading to larger class sizes and less support for children with the greatest needs. This cannot be allowed to happen.

“Schools will no longer be able to afford those crucial services that are there to support pupils – things that children rely on not just for education but for their health and wellbeing. Things like in-school mental health services, counselling, and speech and language therapy. And it’s that extra help for families – especially those hit hardest by the cost-of-living crisis – that schools can no longer afford – things like food for breakfast and help with clothing and laundry.

“The responses to this survey represent a significant proportion of the education profession – leaders out there in schools, on the front line, who are seeing the true desperation of the situation at hand. They do not raise the alarm lightly – when they speak, the government must listen. We must see urgent action on education spending ahead of the next Budget update.”