In the UK, inflation may as well have been the word of 2022. As prices soared around the country, with everything from your loaf of bread to your energy bills affected, it felt as though it was going to be the most expensive year on record. Enter: 2023. This year, inflation continues to push prices up, and a pretty brutal recession is predicted, with a shrink in the economy of around 1.2%. In other words, get ready for more.
But what do these soaring prices mean for the education sector? We’ve done some digging and put together everything you need to know, as well as some tips to help your school survive the year ahead.
Spending Per Pupil Is Declining
In the academic industry, it’s well-known that spending per pupil has been on the decline for some time now. Between the academic years of 2009/10 and 2019/20, it fell by 9% in England in a drastic cut that was felt across schools and colleges. Because of this, the government planned on pumping in additional funding to increase spending per pupil, which would have restored levels back to the 2010 outlook.
The government went ahead with this funding, but due to inflation, the amount they put into schools was comparatively lessened. Now, the costs the government anticipated are drastically higher, making the money they’ve given have to go much further.
Unfortunately, this means that spending per pupil won’t increase in 2023. By 2024-2025, it’s expected that it’ll still be a whopping 3% lower than 2010 levels, leaving children and schools worse off now than they were 15 years ago.
School Budgets Are Stretched to the Limit
The lack of government funding is worsened by costs rising far quicker than anyone anticipated at the beginning of 2022. In fact, it’s expected that for 2022 to 2023, costs will skyrocket by 6% for schools, making already tight budgets even tighter.
A perfect storm of circumstances has led to this rise in expenses. Energy costs are being continuously pushed up, making it far more expensive to heat schools over colder months, fuel costs have gone through the roof, and the financial impact of Covid-19 still has many academic establishments reeling. Combine all of these factors alongside inflation, and you start to realise just how out-of-pocket UK schools currently are.
Fortunately, the growth in pupil funding does cushion the blow. Though not enough to make inflation easy on schools by any means, it should help tide them over until the economy straightens out again.
Fewer Teachers and Lower Pay
There’s already a teacher crisis happening in the UK, with not enough staff available to fill positions and the number of graduates training to enter the teaching profession at an all-time low. Now, inflation is adding to the problem.
As the value of the pound drops and costs increase, the value of wages is also reduced. Teacher salaries are already notoriously low, and whilst for every 1% increase in pay, there’s a 2% uptick in graduate recruitment, the same can be said when put in reverse. The lower wages fall, the fewer graduates will sign up to become a teacher.
Unions are demanding a rise in pay for teachers from the government to help combat inflation. However, the proposed rise in the starting salary from £28,000 to £30,000 p/a isn’t set to meet the mark. In other words, the future of the teacher crisis is looking rather bleak.
How Can Schools Survive Inflation?
There’s no doubt that battling inflation as a school in the UK isn’t going to be smooth sailing. However, there is support available, and there are some clever ways of keeping your doors open and your children safe regardless of the economy.
Be Aware of Government Support Schemes
Fortunately, the government has created some support schemes for schools. For example, they’ve provided a 6-month support scheme that began at the beginning of October 2022 and runs until March 31st 2023. In this scheme, schools can take advantage of reduced rates of £211 per megawatt hour for electricity and £75 for gas. Keep an eye out for more schemes and help that you could take advantage of.
There’s also other, non-cost-of-living-crisis related support available for schools, like their technology funding and grants. If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to cash in on them and alleviate the strains on your budget.
Educate Parents on Government Help
It’s crucial you give out information on government help to parents, too. When parents are struggling, their children will undoubtedly suffer. Let them know of widespread help, like the Household Support Fund, and remind parents of their eligibility for free school meals.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Community Help
As a school, you’re a pillar of the community. However, in times of crisis, it’s not a bad thing to ask for help from the same people you support. Ask those in your community to donate old clothes, toys, and educational materials that may be of use to your pupils. With struggling families, every donation counts.
Shop Around For New Suppliers
From builders to caterers, everyone is pushing their prices up at the moment. Rather than taking fee hikes at face value, shop around for new quotes to see if you can find the same services at a lower price. When inflation hits, every penny counts!
Inflation has been tough on many industries, including the education sector. Fortunately, we know that the cost of living crisis won’t last forever, and in the meantime, it’s crucial to keep pushing for more government support. Hopefully, this article has shed some light on how inflation has affected schools across the country, as well as given you some tips to keep your pupils happy and healthy in tough times.
By Kate Sheppard