London schools are facing unprecedented cuts of £760m a year by 2020. This is on top of the last five years of education cuts that removed support services for schools and cut sixth form funding by ten percent. Education spending has been cut twice before, the highest cuts being 4% between 1982 and 1985. The Tories are now proposing to cut education spending by 8% nationally and 12% In London. Spending cuts in Barking and Dagenham specifically would total 13%.
Deep cuts are to be made in funding for schools in some of the poorest London boroughs, spending per pupil is due to be cut by 24% in Hackney and 21% in Southwark by 2020. Cuts of this size have never before been seen to schools.
The figures used to calculate the cuts are based on the latest forecast from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) and projections from the Tory “Fair Funding” campaign. This ‘Fair Funding’ campaign is looking to redistribute some funding for schools in metropolitan areas of London to create more funding for schools out in the shires, it is in essence, investing in some schools by taking away from others. The reallocation of school funds between areas will not address the funding problems which schools face and will impose deeper cuts on schools in London.
The figures are conservative and probably underestimated. The IFS expect school staff’s pay to rise only 1% a year, however, given that private sector pay is now rising by 3.4% a year, the Office for Budget Responsibility thinks this is unrealistic. Staff shortage pressures are going to be felt most in London and schools could end up facing cuts of 15% on average.
George Osborne said in his Autumn Statement that schools could protect their budgets by accepting more students. However this is not an option for primary schools that have a class size limit of 30 children and so these schools would be forced to make redundancies to teaching assistants and support staff to accommodate the cuts. This will hurt the most disadvantaged students the most. It is still far from an ideal situation for secondary schools with the scope to take in more students. The government are yet again cutting money for school buildings as the vast majority of the money will go toward the free schools project. Meaning that if schools do follow Mr Osborne’s advice, they will have to install prefab classrooms in playgrounds instead of having proper school buildings and these are not the adequate resources needed in schools.