The quality of teaching is declining, class sizes are growing and almost one-third of schools say they cannot deliver the national curriculum properly, research by the National Association of Head Teachers shows.
The union, which surveyed 145 primary schools and 51 secondary schools, says that parents are increasingly being called upon to raise money, 'not for the jam on the bread and butter, but for the bread itself'.
Six out of ten say they will have less money, in real terms, this year than last year, and almost one in three says that the quality of education they provide is declining.
Launching the survey yesterday, David Hart, general secretary of the union, said that schools were sliding into a 'parlous' financial state because they were being asked to take on extra responsibilities without extra money.
'The pressures are becoming quite intolerable, and we are seeing cuts which go to the very root of the provision of a decent education in this country,' he said.
When asked about the appointment of staff, 77 per cent of head teachers said that cost rather than quality determined their choice. Bob Fisk, a former president of the union and head teacher of Coquet High School in Northumberland, said that he had recently had to choose between taking an experienced job applicant for three days each week or an inexperienced one full-time.
'The teaching quality might not be so good, but I have got someone who will stand in front of the classes for five days each week. I would not want to say that newly qualified teachers are of poor quality, but we don't have the choice now,' he said.
More than 90 per cent of head teachers said that they had not had adequate support to bring in the national curriculum, and almost half said that they had had none at all. Many mentioned increases in class sizes as a reason for not being able to deliver the curriculum properly.
Almost all schools tried to raise funds to supplement their income, but those in affluent areas were most successful. Among the schemes they devised were horseracing evenings in which parents were invited to bet on videos of racing; letting out car parks for sports events and even carrying out bucket collections at football matches.
Yesterday the Department for Education said that school budgets had increased by almost 50 per cent in real terms since 1979. Schools had pounds 400m left in their bank accounts at the end of the 1991- 92 financial year.
Mr Hart accused the department of being 'disingenuous' in its use of figures.