English Primary Schools Struggle with Funding Cuts, Reducing Staff and Activities

Primary schools in England face funding crisis, leading to cuts in staff and activities, widening the attainment gap for disadvantaged students. Urgent action needed to address the deepening crisis in the education system.

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Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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English Primary Schools Struggle with Funding Cuts, Reducing Staff and Activities

English Primary Schools Struggle with Funding Cuts, Reducing Staff and Activities

Primary schools across England are grappling with significant funding challenges, leading to cuts in essential staff and activities, according to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

The survey found that over two-thirds of senior leaders in schools have had to reduce teaching assistants, while nearly half have cut support staff and a third have reduced teaching staff.

The proportion of schools cutting back on trips, outings, sports, and extracurricular activities is at the highest level since the survey began in 2017. Primary schools are being hit the hardest, with half of their senior leaders using pupil premium funding, intended to support disadvantaged students, to plug gaps in their overall budgets.

The survey revealed that 74% of primary school headteachers had to cut back on teaching assistants, compared to 41% in secondary schools. Over half of primary school senior leaders have also reported cuts to IT equipment and trips/outings, while 29% have cut sports and extracurricular activities.

Why this matters: The funding crisis in English primary schools is having a major impact on the ability of schools to provide the support and resources that students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, need to succeed. The cuts to essential staff and activities risk widening the attainment gap and limiting opportunities for disadvantaged children.

The Sutton Trust, an educational charity, is calling for a new national strategy to address the widening attainment gap. Sir Peter Lampl, the founder of the Sutton Trust, described the situation as "disgraceful," stating that the "erosion of school funding coupled with rising costs" is having a detrimental effect on schools' ability to support their students.

The Department for Education has stated that school funding is at the highest level ever in real terms per pupil. However, school leaders and unions argue that the funding is still inadequate and that urgent action is needed to address the deepening crisis in the education system. They warn that the situation for primary schools is rapidly deteriorating, with many on the brink of financial unsustainability.

Key Takeaways

  • Primary schools in England face significant funding cuts, leading to staff and activity reductions.
  • Over two-thirds of schools have reduced teaching assistants, and nearly half have cut support staff.
  • Primary schools are hit the hardest, with half using pupil premium funds to plug budget gaps.
  • The funding crisis is widening the attainment gap and limiting opportunities for disadvantaged students.
  • School leaders and unions argue that funding is still inadequate, and urgent action is needed.