Funding intended to help the country’s most disadvantaged children is being used to plug holes in insufficient school budgets, as schools face the most drastic cuts to spending in decades. National Union of Teachers general secretary Kevin Courtney said: "The fact that some heads seem to be using resources allocated for poorer peoples is deeply reprehensible and shows how badly the government is handling our education service. In their manifesto they told parents: 'The money following your child to school would be protected', but that turns out to be simply untrue."
In a survey of 1,361 teachers, around a third of heads said their school had been forced to use pupil premium funding to cover other costs – with schools from the most disadvantaged areas most often affected. Almost half (47 per cent) of heads in the most disadvantaged fifth of primary and secondary schools said they had cut teaching staff, compared with just over a third (35 per cent) in the least disadvantaged fifth of schools.
On top of this, almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of the secondary school headteachers polled said their school had cut back on teaching staff to save money. As many as 80 per cent said they had cut back on either teaching staff or teaching assistants, and half of teachers said they had cut both.
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee warned children’s futures are being put “at risk” as a result, with class sizes expanding and the quality of education in English schools likely to fall further. Some teachers reported having to teach classes of 60 pupils or more as a result of staff shortages, a problem industry leaders say is likely to escalate as the school-age population grows.
This week it was revealed that half of schools in England had been forced to ask parents for some form of financial help as a result of crippling budget cuts, with one in six teachers admitting their school had asked parents for cash donations directly.