Cost of living: schools ‘considering three-day week’

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The Association of School and College Leaders told Mazic News the situation was “demoralizing, depressing and desperate.”

Schools are reportedly considering three- or four-day weeks to cope with skyrocketing energy bills and teachers’ pay increases.

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School leaders are holding “crisis talks” with governors and trustees as they work out how to stretch budgets amid the cost-of-living crisis, with shortening the week being raised as a possible solution according to The Telegraph.

Experts have warned inflation could top 15% and energy bills could top £5,000 next year, adding further pressure on schools’ already tight finances.

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Teachers are also set to receive pay increases in September, with experienced teachers receiving their highest pay mark in 30 years (5%), further weighing on budgets.

Schools are considering three-day weeks to deal with cost-of-living crisis. Photo credit: Mazic News

Mark Jordan, the chief executive of a multi-academy trust that runs 17 schools in the Midlands and Norfolk, confirmed he had heard discussions about a “three-day work week” to help with cuts.

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He also told The Telegraph that the Creative Education Trust is considering a hiring freeze and is aiming to end Covid catch-up schemes.

dr Robin Bevan, headmaster at top grammar school Southend High School for Boys, added: “If a four-day week isn’t already planned, some schools will certainly consider it”.

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“In the absence of long overdue, above-inflationary investment in school funding, this will become a viable prospect sooner rather than later,” he added.

Schools face budgetary woes as the cost of living crisis continues to wreak havoc

However, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told Mazic News that the organization has yet to hear directly from school leaders who are considering shortening the weeks to three or four days.

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Instead, the range of options discussed by the association includes the following:

  • Non-replacement of staff and managerial positions, redistributing responsibilities to the remaining teams;
  • deferring capital projects planned to develop and improve student facilities;
  • the likelihood of larger class sizes in the future.

Mr Barton also told Mazic News: “Unfortunately, rising energy costs and staff payouts, for which there is no additional government funding, mean that school leaders are having to cut their budgets significantly to avoid deficits and balance their books.

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“This is a major challenge given that budgets are already very tight after a decade of real cuts in government funding.

“In fact, it’s very difficult to address funding pressures in the short term because many of the actions that schools can take require planning and time to take effect.”

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“Demoralizing, depressing and desperate”

He stated that this would likely result in a situation where reserves were depleted, describing the situation as “absolutely demoralizing, depressing and desperate”.

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Mr Barton also criticized the Government’s response, noting: “The Government has simply stuck its head in the sand and insists that these costs are affordable – but at the individual school level that is clearly not the case.”

Experts have warned energy bills could top £5,000 a year in January

An education ministry told Mazic News: “We recognize that schools – much like the broader economy – face increased costs, including energy and staffing costs.

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“To support schools, budgets will increase by £7billion by 2024-25 – including £7billion in the current financial year alone – compared to 2021-22.”

This reportedly equates to a 7% increase in payment terms per student.

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The spokesperson said school weeks should not be less than 32.5 hours, which is the current average, commenting: “Thousands of schools are already offering this week length within existing budgets and we expect current funding plans to reflect this .”

The ministry added that a recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that these budget increases will mean the projected increased costs for schools in 2022-23 are broadly affordable.

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The spokesperson also said schools will be provided with a range of school resource management tools to help them get the most out of their resources.

These tools currently include recommendations for energy costs and ancillary services related to energy.

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Despite the budget increases, a chief executive officer of a major academy trust told The Telegraph that “shorter school days” and “draconian energy use restrictions” are “becoming a reality for all trusts”.

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