UK: Money for the rich, money for war, but none for education

As the academic year in the UK begins, schools face an existential funding crisis in funding. School leaders already struggling to balance budgets warn of cuts to the curriculum, staff redundancies and increased class sizes.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, spending per pupil in 2024-25 is expected to be 3 percent lower on average than in 2010. The situation is even worse in post-16 education, with college funding per pupil in 2024-25 at 10 percent below 2010-11 levels, while sixth form funding per pupil will be 23 percent lower.

Alex Dickerson the reception class teacher, (left) leads the class at the Holy Family Catholic Primary School in Greenwich, London, Monday, May 24, 2021. [AP Photo/Alastair Grant]

The funding crisis is exacerbated by inflationary pressures triggered by the government’s response to the pandemic, and the NATO war against Russia in Ukraine — in which Britain is playing a major role and finacing to the tune of billions of pounds.

Rising energy bills and the recent below-inflation 5 percent pay award for teachers, to be financed out of existing school budgets, mean that schools must lay off staff to make savings. There is already a chronic staff shortage due to excessive work overload and poor pay.

Richard Sheriff is the chief executive officer of the Red Kite Learning Trust of 13 schools in North and West Yorkshire. He told the Guardian. “In over 20 years leading schools, I have never before been faced with such a shock to our budgets. We are in the desperate position of having to look at cutting everything from school trips to teaching resources. “

At Passmores Cooperative Learning Community, a trust comprising four schools in Essex, music could be cut from the curriculum, and the price of school meals increased.

A rising number of children arrive at school hungry and cold. According to the Child Poverty Action, 800,000 children who live in poverty do not qualify for free school meals.

Sean Maher, headteacher at Richard Challoner school in Kingston, said, “I’ve been on various WhatsApp groups, and the consensus is there’s no school in the country that’s going to be able to afford these pay rises that have been passed on unfunded. “

Schools have been given a six months energy bills reprieve with the Energy Relief Scheme but still face huge bills immediately after. Bryn Thomas, the head of Wolverley CE Secondary School, told the BBC that without additional funding the school would be forced to operate at a loss after its fixed deal on energy ended in April. “If we’re not protected we’re looking at a trebling of that £ 125,000 bill, which will mean another £ 250,000 will come out of the £ 900,000 that we have to run our school.”

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