Half of senior leaders say school trips and outings have had to be cut – poll

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Half of school senior leaders say they have had to cut back on trips and outings this year, a poll has suggested.

Nearly two in three (63%) senior leaders report having to cut teaching assistants and nearly three in four (71%) say their school has had difficulties recruiting teachers this year, according to the survey.

The poll, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, suggests more than two in five senior leaders report using public funding for the poorest youngsters to plug gaps in their school budgets.

The survey of 1,428 teachers and senior leaders in English state schools suggests more are cutting back on staff, IT equipment, sports and extracurricular activities, and trips and outings this year.

The findings come as teacher members of the National Education Union in England will strike on Thursday amid concerns about pay and school funding.

Among the senior leaders surveyed, 63% said their school had to cut back on teaching assistants, compared to 42% in last year’s survey, while 40% said their school had to cut support staff, compared to 33% last year.

In addition, 50% of senior leaders said trips and outings had been cut back, compared to 21% last year, and 42% said there had been cuts to IT equipment, compared to 27% last year.

About one in four (26%) of the senior leaders surveyed said sports and other extracurricular activities had been cut back this year, compared to 15% in last year’s survey.

The poll, carried out in March this year, also found 41% of senior leaders said money from the pupil premium – extra funding to support the most disadvantaged youngsters – is being used to plug gaps elsewhere in their school’s budget, compared to 33% in last year’s survey.

This is the highest figure since the Sutton Trust began publishing polling on the issue in 2017.

Carl Cullinane, director of research and policy at the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s polling paints a deeply concerning picture of our schools. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis and the continuing impacts of the pandemic, schools are having to cut essential staff and activities for pupils.

“Funding for poorer pupils through the pupil premium is more important than ever in the context of these pressures.

“It is deeply concerning that increasing numbers of schools report having to use their pupil premium funding to plug budget gaps. It is vital that this funding is used to narrow the gaps in progress that have opened alarmingly in the wake of the pandemic.

“The Government must urgently review the funding given to schools, particularly those in the most deprived areas, in light of these trends.”

“This is the result of insufficient funding from the Government to cover the cost of staff pay awards and general inflationary pressures which come on top of a decade of underfunding.

“Schools are, in fact, fighting on two fronts as they not only have to make difficult decisions about where to cut provision, but are also struggling with a teacher recruitment and retention crisis caused by government policies which have eroded the real value of pay and worsened working conditions.

“The young people who are suffering the most are those in the most disadvantaged communities.”

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The Sutton Trust report highlights the dire situation schools and colleges find themselves in due to decades of Government underfunding.”

He added: “The education sector needs more money and needs it now. All children deserve to be taught in classes of fewer than 30 led by a qualified teacher.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The Government needs to recognise that school leaders desperately need more funding and make a serious offer to end the industrial dispute which reflects the real-term pay cuts, crippling workload and high-stakes accountability faced by dedicated staff.

“Instead, ministers have proposed that schools should fund below-inflation pay rises from already stretched, inflation-hit budgets, a delusional approach which will strengthen the perception that teaching is no longer an attractive profession and make it harder for leaders to offer children a first-rate education.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Next year, school funding will be at its highest level in history – in real terms – as measured by the IFS, following the additional £2bn of investment for both 2023/24 and 2024/25 in the autumn statement.

“Every school in England is set to benefit from this boost, which will support schools with salary uplifts, as well as things like school trips and essential learning materials. Primary and secondary schools will find out on Wednesday exactly how much funding they will receive in additional funding for 2023/24.

“This funding uplift is on top of additional grants schools are provided with to boost specific areas, including almost £5bn for education recovery support and extra funding for sports through the PE and Sport premium .”

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