Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why Heads Will Have to Get Used to Shrinking Budgets

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why Heads Will Have to Get Used to Shrinking Budgets

Article excerpt

As George Osborne's spending review looms, we investigate threats to funding now and in the future

On Wednesday, chancellor George Osborne will set out his spending plans for the next four and a half years. School funding is protected, but only to a very limited extent. In reality, the financial forecast for schools up and down the country looks bleak.

Education ministers preparing for the comprehensive spending review have left themselves with little room for manoeuvre. They have pledged to maintain per-pupil school funding for ages 5-16 at current "cash" levels (although that will not take into account rising costs).

But somehow the Department for Education must still find savings of at least 20 per cent. Schools are likely to be hit in a variety of other ways.

Sixth forms could close

The budget for ages 16-19 is, once again, expected to bear the brunt, which is bad news for any secondary with a sixth form. Headteachers' leaders have warned that smaller sixth forms - with 200 students or fewer - will not be financially viable and could face closure.

Early years pressures

Another area thought to be facing hefty cuts is the early years sector. The Conservatives' promise to double childcare to 30 hours is believed to be sacrosanct but other areas can still be trimmed, such as funding for children's centres and grants. It could be that any school running a nursery will again have to dip into its 5-16 budget to cover the cuts. All-through schools will feel the strain if they are to prop up sixth forms as well as meeting their childcare obligations.

As the TES reveals this week, academies could be hit particularly hard by cuts to the education services grant.

Training cash at risk

The near £500 million the DfE spends on initial teacher training may also be under threat, even as the country faces its worst teacher shortages for a decade.

Schools participating in School Direct training could suffer, and schemes like Troops to Teachers have an uncertain future. Heads may also feel the effects of cuts to miscellaneous grants supporting schemes such as the £80 million national music hubs programme. …

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