Cost of living: Schools vow to stay open - but warn of 'harsh decisions' ahead

·3-min read

Headteachers have vowed to keep school doors open this winter, but are warning "harsh decisions" lie ahead.

Speaking to the Sky News Daily podcast with Niall Paterson, teachers have said they're concerned about the effects of spiralling energy costs.

Schools are also tackling the question of how to pay teachers fairly. Teachers are due to receive a 5% pay rise this month, but the government has not provided additional funding to cover this, leaving schools to foot the bill within their own budgets.

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Glyn Potts, headteacher at Newman Catholic College in Oldham, said he'd do "anything in my power" to look after his students, but said schools aren't getting enough funding to ensure the full education for children.

"If you speak to teaching colleagues and those who support teachers in the work they do in schools, they'll say [the recent recommended pay increase] is not enough," Mr Potts said.

"It doesn't cover the bills that they're facing, and we're going to be forced to make some very harsh decisions around whether [spending money on extracurricular activities] benefits the classroom or not.

"The arts, drama, those kind of enhancements, that really are important to me. An educator will suddenly become budgetary. Two decisions that I'm struggling to make.

"If I have to open the school and eat and provide food and I can't provide it, I'll go on the telephone and start begging local businesses," Mr Potts added.

Another headteacher, from Blackpool, said he would keep his school open, but that his school's energy bills could hit six figures over the next year.

"We're going to have to eat into reserves massively over the next few years if nothing changes just to provide heating and lighting in the school," said Roger Farley, head of Westminster Primary in Blackpool.

"We could be spending upwards of £100,000 in electric and gas over the next over the next year."

Former Conservative education secretary Justine Greening MP told the Sky News Daily that schools will face a tough winter.

"That's following the COVID shutdown that we saw of schools for quite a long time. But... the resource base they've got to do that has now been really squeezed through the cost of living crisis."

Ms Greening suggested "cross-party agreement" might give schools "a chance of actually making some progress".

Likewise, Robert Halfon MP, the Conservative chair of the education select committee, told the podcast that he thinks the next education secretary needs a fresh approach.

"The new education secretary should have a dashboard with every school, every local authority in his office, working out where schools have problems," he said.

"The priority must be address social injustice in education, address the COVID deficit and address the skills deficit, and get more value in people doing vocational education, skills and apprenticeships."

Producer: Soila Apparicio
Interviews Producer: Alys Bowen
Podcast Promotions Producer and additional words: David Chipakupaku
Editor: Philly Beaumont