Education & Family

School heads warn of budget 'snatchback' on pensions

teacher in classroom Image copyright PA
Image caption Increased pension contributions mean schools will be no better off, despite a budget increase announced yesterday

Schools in England face having their budget increases "snatched back", a head teachers' union has warned.

The government announced on Thursday that schools in England will receive an extra £350m in 2015-16.

However, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) says the increase will be swallowed up by rises in pension contributions and salaries.

The Department for Education says schools are now "well positioned" to pay higher pension contributions.

The ASCL describes the result for school budgets as "catastrophic".

It says that schools have faced "four years of static or falling funding, coupled with rising costs".

The association says that has already meant a reduction in real-terms purchasing power in excess of 4%.

While Schools Minister David Laws promised an extra £350m, ASCL calculates that pension contributions and likely salary increases would cost schools £340m.

'Completely overshadowed'

The association has more than 18,000 members, and represents 80% of England's secondary heads.

Its deputy general secretary, Malcolm Trobe, praised some aspects of yesterday's announcement by Mr Laws, but said any good news was "completely overshadowed" by the increase in pension contributions.

"We welcome the minimum per-pupil funding guarantee to help those areas that historically have been the lowest-funded," he said.

"This raising up of the basic funding level in these low-funded areas is a useful step towards a national fair funding formula."

However, he warned of the "reality that all schools and colleges will have a huge hole in their budgets caused by the pensions contribution rise".

He said: "This will have a catastrophic effect and lead to larger class sizes and reduced curriculum choice.

"We want the government to ensure that this increase in contributions is fully funded so that children's education is not compromised."

A Department for Education spokesman said the announced budget would remove "the historic unfairness of the funding system", and was the "biggest step toward fairer funding in a decade".

He said: "Crucially, we have ensured no local authority will see a reduction in its budget, while 62 local authorities will get a cash boost.

"Our protection of the schools budget means schools are well positioned to cope with the reform of employer pension contributions that is taking place across the public sector."

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