St Albans and Harpenden schools brace themselves for the long-term impact of big cuts to education budgets

Alan Henshall

Alan Henshall - Credit: Archant

Impending budget cuts will cause an ‘inevitable’ increase in class sizes and a reduction in teaching staff, St Albans headteachers have warned.

Sandringham School head Alan Gray is interviewed by TV at the event at his school as they prepare to

Sandringham School head Alan Gray is interviewed by TV at the event at his school as they prepare to make contact with Astronaut Tim Peake on the International Space Station - Credit: Archant

Funding for schools in Hertfordshire will have fallen significantly by 2020, which is partly due to to the Government’s National Funding Formula, which was under public consultation until Wednesday, March 22.

Alan Henshall, head of Roundwood Park in Harpenden, is the chair of the St Albans headteachers group, which will meet with MPs Peter Lilley and Anne Main to urge them to campaign against the funding cuts.

Mr Henshall said: “We are going to be just short of £70,000. We think that’s pretty typical of schools in our area.

“If you employ a teacher on an average salary that comes to over £50,000 - a figure that’s an excess of a teacher’s salary is a huge reduction on our budget.

Sandringham School

Sandringham School - Credit: Archant

“What the Government is not making clear is there’s a rising cost of running a school due to an increase in employer national insurance contributions. The second thing is the pension pots which are rising as well.

“The education support grant is worth about £60,000 a year, which is being cut. In addition to the National Funding Formula the cost of running a school and paying contributions is rising and rising and it’s putting a massive squeeze on our budget.”

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Mr Henshall is concerned that budget constraints may lead to an increase in class sizes and a reduction in teaching staff.

He said: “One of the things that we are really proud of is we have a really good range of primary and secondary schools, all rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

Dr Emily Shuckburgh (left) with headteacher, Margaret Chapman.

Dr Emily Shuckburgh (left) with headteacher, Margaret Chapman. - Credit: Archant

“We have cut all the things to do with supporting the school in terms of materials that we use. We are going to have to start cutting at the front line in terms of not replacing staff when they leave, maybe cutting subjects, maybe reducing the amount of time subjects have, and increasing class sizes.

“This is typical of schools across the whole of the south east.”

Alan Gray, head of Sandringham School in St Albans, chairs the Hertfordshire Schools Forum and has written to education secretary Justine Greening about the funding cuts.

He said: “There are two things - one is the amount of money and secondly how it is distributed.

“The National Funding Formula is a bit of a smokescreen because if there isn’t enough money in the first place it doesn’t matter how you spread it out.

“The amount of money has been reduced over the past four years, and the government has said by 2020 secondary schools will be about six teachers short, which in budget terms is about a quarter of a million pounds each.

“By 2020 it will have reduced by about 8.4 per cent for all schools in Hertfordshire. This equates close to a £400,000 deficit.

“You are not going to make the level of saving just by saving on photocopying and turning off lights. You have to reduce some teaching staff.”

In his letter to the education secretary, Mr Gray highlighted the risk of young people being discouraged from entering into teaching as a profession if they themselves have not had a good experience at school.

He told the Herts Ad: “Most secondary schools are going to reduce the amount of teachers and increase the class sizes. Obviously headteachers will do everything they can to avoid doing that but in the long run that will be inevitable.”

Mr Gray’s concerns were shared by Margaret Chapman, head of St Albans Girls’ School (STAGS). She said: “Obviously we are very concerned about the impact of the National Funding Formula on school budgets going into the next financial year and beyond.

“This equates to a 2.9 per cent budget reduction in our funding, as for most other secondary schools in Hertfordshire, but with increases in national insurance, pension contributions, the apprenticeship levy, the removal of the Education Services Grant and additional costs this could equate to upwards of six per cent by 2020.

“We are effectively planning for these budget challenges, reviewing contracts and ensuring the best possible value for money across the school.”