Half of schools see budget cuts, survey suggests

Pupils using computers Some head teachers said they planned to save money on computers

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More than half the schools in England are facing cuts to their budgets, a survey of heads and deputies suggests.

The poll, of 1,177 school and college leaders, also suggests nearly nine out of 10 are seeing reduced support from local authorities.

The report, by school support organisation the Key, also suggests posts will go in nearly half the schools facing cuts.

The government says school budgets always go up and down.

In the last comprehensive spending review it promised to increase spending on schools budgets.

However the budget rise was so small that gains were wiped out by a slight increase in inflation.

Only 31% of those surveyed by the Key report an increased budget, while 7% say there is no change.

'Music classes'

Secondary schools seem to be feeling the pinch the most, with nearly two-thirds reporting budget cuts, compared with 44% of primaries.

Of the schools that were losing money, 53% say their school intends to spend less on building maintenance and 49% will cut spending on ICT equipment.

Others say subsidised clubs, such as music classes and Chinese and Urdu lessons, will be cut to save resources for core subjects.

The survey also suggests that few schools have seen any benefits from the extra cash targeted at poorer pupils through the pupil premium - worth £430 per eligible pupil.

Respondents suggest any gains had been wiped out by reductions in other areas, such as the loss of the ethnic minority achievement grant.

Six out of 10 head and deputies surveyed say they plan to compensate for losses in support service by asking school staff to take on more tasks.

Academy conversion

And nearly a third say they plan to increase their use of private sector firms to fill the gap in provision.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We're protecting the schools budget in cash terms per pupil, introducing a pupil premium for disadvantaged pupils, and putting money directly into heads' hands.

"School budgets fluctuate every year as pupil numbers change so it is normal for some schools to get more, and for others to get less.

"In fact this survey shows that around a third of schools have reported an increase in funding."

Asked whether they were thinking of converting to academy status, nearly three-quarters (73%) of those surveyed say their governing body would consider it.

And 43% of heads say they would consider the change.

Academies have greater control over their budgets and can set their own pay and conditions for staff.

The research comes as the Department for Education announced that more than 1,000 schools have applied to become academies since June 2010.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "A third of secondary schools are now either an academy or have started on the road to conversion. This represents a fundamental shift in power away from government and towards teachers.

"Teachers, not politicians or bureaucrats, know best how to run schools."

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