Special needs school forced to cut length of day to save money amid funding cuts

Children with special education needs and disabilities are especially at risk as a result of national cuts to school spending, council leaders warn

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Thursday 27 April 2017 11:48 BST
Schools are facing the most extreme squeeze to spending since the 1990s
Schools are facing the most extreme squeeze to spending since the 1990s (Getty)

A school in Birmingham is being forced to shorten its working day, in a bid to save money as it struggles to cope with crippling cuts to school funding.

Chris Field, headteacher of Selly Oak Trust School, said he had been left with no choice but to reduce staff costs, which could be damaging for pupils’ quality of learning.

The school, which is a specialist science college for students with special needs, has already made “significant savings”, he said, but they had not been enough.

He said the only solution was to reduce the school day by 30 minutes, starting from September.

The move follows dramatic real-terms cuts to school spending, as outlined in the Spring Budget last month.

Industry leaders have expressed growing concerns as schools across the country take increasingly drastic measures as they struggle to make ends meet.

Children with special educational needs and disabilities are especially at risk, council leaders have warned, since budget cuts along with rising demand is putting a strain on councils’ abilities to offer places.

In a letter to parents, Mr Field wrote: “The school leadership team and governors have not taken this decision lightly. We also understand that this will have an impact on families.

“However, we believe that this change will ensure that we meet the savings demanded of us, without affecting the quality of our students’ education in a safe environment.”

Pupil numbers as well as staff pensions and national insurance contributions had also increased substantially over the past five years, he explained, but the level of funding had not changed to match.

He told parents: “We are in challenging financial times and my job as headteacher is to manage the funding we have been allocated and that means working with governors to make some very difficult decisions.

“My priority and the priority of the governing body is to ensure that we provide our students with the best quality learning experience they can possibly have within the funding available.

“As always, we can do what we can to support you.”

Last month, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee warned children’s futures are being put “at risk” by falling standards and “soaring class sizes”, as schools face the most extreme squeeze to spending since the 1990s.

Funding per pupil is reducing in real terms, the group added, with mainstream schools in England needing to make efficiency savings, rising from £1.1bn in 2016-17 to £3bn by 2019-20, in order to manage within the available funds.

A recent survey of teachers and school leaders suggested half of schools in England had been forced to ask parents for some form of financial help, with several staff members using their own money to plug holes in classroom budgets.

About half of schools have already cut teaching posts as a result of the funding crisis, and almost two thirds of respondents said classroom support staff posts had been cut – with further staffing cuts expected next year.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said at the time: “The Government needs to sit up and listen. Schools are already struggling to make ends meet and children are already losing out.

“Unless the Government finds more money for schools, and fast, today’s schoolchildren will have severely limited choices at school and children from poorer families will be even further disadvantaged because their parents may struggle to provide the resources schools can no longer afford.”

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