'Parents have been asked to help clean': how budget cuts are affecting schools

Sarah Marsh and Guardian readers
Hands raised in classroom Photograph: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Schools in England face budget cuts. The Institute for Fiscal Studies found that spending per pupil is to fall 6.5% by 2019-20 – the first-real term cuts since the mid-1990s.

It’s a situation that has led headteachers to use Twitter to highlight the stark choices they may have to make. Schools have also written to parents expressing their concern, and urging them to lobby MPs for an increase in funding.

We asked for your stories, about how cuts are likely to affect your schools. A number of teachers got in touch sharing their concerns – here are a selection of responses.

Mike, 50, from the south-east: ‘When someone calls in sick their class is split among other teachers to save money’

An excellent music teacher left the school recently and was not replaced – so there will be no more quality music lessons for the kids now. When someone calls in sick their class is split among other teachers to save money. If we didn’t do this we’d have to get a supply in. There have been reports of overcrowding and a lack of chairs and desks for the extra children. It’s led to behaviour problems.

I have also observed that new teacher appointees are now always newly qualified teachers (NQTs). More experienced teachers are not considered for posts now. This started a few years ago so we have a lack of balance between young and older teachers.

Andy, 41, from the south-east: ‘We continue to be optimistic so as not to alarm parents, but this is unsustainable’

I am responsible for the finances and all other non-teaching aspects of the school. The school’s buildings have already been allowed to deteriorate significantly over many years, and we dread anything unexpected, because we simply don’t have the money for it. Cuts in “non-core” funding mean we need to find additional savings of at least £350,000, and there’s nowhere other than teaching and learning to take it from. So, it’s a question of which subject do we cut? Or do we close the library, stop all trips and activities? Do we dump all the kids in the hall when teachers are off sick? Even if we do all that, will it be enough? In my personal opinion, we continue to be unduly optimistic, and so have not alarmed parents, but this is unsustainable.

We make bids for funding for projects and activities, but we have no staff capacity to make this happen – it’s all done as goodwill in people’s own time. We are also trying to increase lettings, but the condition of our facilities and the cost of staffing (caretaker etc) mean we barely make any money.

We can no longer afford books, pencils or computers. We have jokingly said that we will need to return to chalk and slate

Kelly

Kelly, 41, from Yorkshire: ‘We were rated outstanding over a year ago, but now we cannot replace good teachers’

We are in a deficit budget, a deficit which is predicted to grow in the next three years. Merely 18 months ago we became outstanding, but now as staff leave we can no longer afford to replace them with experienced practitioners, which means that the quality of teaching and learning is falling. We can no longer afford books, pencils or computers. We have jokingly said that we will need to return to chalk and slate. In reality, the only way we can work within our projected budget is to reduce the number of staff, resulting in mixed-year groups (small primary), large class sizes of over 30 and reduced teaching support. How is this serving our children well?

Ben, 37, from the north-west: ‘We have cut back on hours for teaching assistants and are still working out where to cut next’

I am a school governor. Our costs have risen dramatically. We’ve cut back on hours for teaching assistants and we are still assessing what the cuts will do to next year’s budget. The diocese is pushing for us to become a part of an academy trust, but they want to keep the money that goes with that. I am not sure what we get for it – the bishop isn’t being very forthcoming. Luckily for us our head retired last year. She was at the top of her pay scale and our new head is young and started on a much lower salary.

Casey, 47, from Suffolk: ‘Parents have been asked to help with tidying up, spring cleaning and maintaining the school’

Budget cuts on our local primary school mean that for the first time the school management has had to ask for volunteers to work in every school year, every day. This means that they haven’t replaced the teacher assistants who left last summer. Additionally, the school requested that parents help with general tidying up, spring cleaning and maintenance in the school, field and garden, which has never happened before. Last week, we got an email from the headteacher asking that we contact our MP to campaign for more funding for our schools locally.

Peter, 31, from Worcester: ‘I would like to teach. I do not have the resources to do it’

We are in a redundancy process. We have had departmental budgets cut by 50%. I have been asked to only photocopy the most necessary of items: exam papers, etc. I do not ask for pens or paper etc as I know there is no money. I just buy them myself. I buy my sixth former’s dividers and folders, I bought my own lamination equipment and my own guillotine. I get my wife to “borrow” plastic wallets and pens from her office.

The cuts are stopping me doing my job. They are stopping the students from learning. In a time when we should be looking to develop engaging lessons which teach students valuable life skills, I am using 20-year-old textbooks and the kids are copying information from it. It is depressing. I know what a modern curriculum should look like, I know the lessons I would like to teach. I do not have the resources to do it. Eventually this will encourage me to leave.

Tom, 34, from London: ‘We will cut trips and not replace staff’

The impact of budget cuts are likely to be the following: we will cut trips to be cost-neutral, probably not replace staff or if we do they will be trainees. We will also cut work experience and department budgets. Pay increases will be limited wherever possible and there will be a reduction to canteen and hospitality budgets. Any student activities that have cost implications will also be reviewed. We had a meeting and all of this was explained to us.

You can share more of your stories with us here.

  • All names have been changed.
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