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UK schools set to explore three-day weeks to combat energy costs and teacher salary rises

School budgets have been facing a crunch in the face of rising energy costs, which are expected to increase by 300%.

UK schools set to explore three-day weeks to combat energy costs and teacher salary rises
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Soaring energy prices and teacher salary increases have become a matter of concern in the U.K. To pay for the rising costs, three- or four-day school weeks are being considered by school leaders, according to The Sunday Telegraph. Over the summer holidays, headteachers, trustees and governors have held “crisis meetings” to figure out how to stay afloat in the face of an imminent financial crisis. Teacher salary increases have been planned for September and energy costs are expected to go up by 300%. As a result, school budgets have been facing a crunch and a solution is being worked out in the meetings.



During one meeting, schools were planning to cut down on maintenance work being done around the school site, classroom resources such as text books and extracurricular activities, all in an effort to manage the increased costs.

The headmaster of Southend High School for Boys in Essex, Dr. Robin Bevan, said that "if a four-day week is not already being planned, it will certainly be being considered” by some schools. Speaking of the increasing inflation, he said, “In the absence of long overdue above-inflation investment in school funding, it'll become a realistic prospect sooner rather than later,” he added.

Marc Jordan, CEO of Creative Education Trust, which operates 17 schools in the Midlands and Norfolk, said his trust, which educates 13,500 students, is considering a recruitment freeze and may have to scrap COVID catch-up programs for children and planned investments in school buildings. “Others less fortunate are facing significant deficits and are already planning for teacher redundancies,” he added.



Various other measures can also help in cost savings. The chief executive of one of the country's largest academy trusts, who did not want to be named, said that “shorter school days, fewer after school clubs and enrichment opportunities and draconian restrictions on energy usage will become a reality for all trusts and the situation is particularly challenging for smaller trusts and standalone schools.” They added: “This is not a plaintive plea of poverty. Nor is it the usual begging bowl moment ahead of a spending review – this is serious stuff.”

Schools have been facing considerable pressure with funding per pupil in England dropping by almost 9% between 2010 and 2020. With the aim of bringing spending per pupil back to 2010 levels, the government has dedicated an additional £7 billion (USD 8.4 billion) for school budgets in England by 2024.



Dr Bevan said that the future does not look great and they had to dip into their limited reserves last year to be able to operate. He said, “Costs are simply rising far more swiftly than budgets and the prospect of only 0.5 per cent increase in income for 2023-24 makes the future look exceptionally bleak.”

Mr Barton said that according to a head of a trust, they need to make £877,000 (USD 1054241) of savings across their foundation. “How do you try and think about those kinds of savings? One is you increase class sizes so you have fewer teachers, or you cut courses that have got small numbers, like GCSE music, German and design technology. Or the other way of doing it is you simply identify members of support staff, teaching assistants and you say you can’t afford them. They are all bad options because they disadvantage young people.”

However, the Department of Education responded by saying that “We recognise that schools – much like the wider economy – are facing increased costs, including on energy and staff pay.”

Stating that schools must provide a full-length week within current finances, the department said, “Our schools white paper set out our expectation that the school week should last a minimum of 32.5 hours – the current average – for all mainstream state-funded schools. Thousands of schools already deliver this length of week within existing budgets and we expect current funding plans to account for this."  



"The reality in many schools, colleges, and trusts is that they are facing massive hikes in energy bills as well as pay awards for teachers and support staff for which there is no additional government funding," said Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, in a statement given to The Times. "It is very likely that this situation will result in cuts to education provision and larger class sizes as schools and colleges try to find ways to balance their budgets."

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