The poll was conducted by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and found that, on average, headteachers across the country are expecting a 106% increase in the cost of energy at their schools. With polling taking place between 21 March and 5 April, it is possible that these fears may have increased further following recent developments concerning the cost of living crisis.
With 1,000 respondents, 99% expected costs to rise over the coming years, with 16% predicting bills to rise by a huge 200%. Furthermore, 37% – over a third – saw a budget deficit on the horizon for their schools.
As a result, many headteachers reported that they were already making cuts in spending on teaching, lesson time, and teaching assistants, as well as maintenance and equipment.
‘For children’s sake’
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman told the Independent; ‘We are hearing quite clearly from our members that rising energy costs will almost certainly have a negative impact on education, and could hamper their recovery efforts.
‘For some, the energy price hikes are the equivalent to the cost of a full-time teacher.’
He added: ‘Every penny spent in schools is a choice. These increased energy costs mean that money which could be being spent on pupils is being paid to energy companies instead.’
Whiteman also pointed out that ‘the government’s attempts to restore school spending to 2010 levels is being rapidly eroded by these and other cost pressures,’ and called on the government to ‘do more to ease the impact of the energy crisis on schools, for children’s sake.’
In some extreme cases, respondents said they had considered resigning or leaving so ‘a cheaper headteacher could be recruited in their place.’ Others reported the scope for ‘possible redundancies’ to save money.
Bills over £53,000
In total, headteachers said they expect to be paying nearly £27,000 in extra energy bills over the next financial year, with respondents on average predicting their annual energy bills to soar to just over £53,000.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education told the Independent: ‘We recognise schools may be facing cost pressures in the coming months, particularly where energy prices have increased, and we are looking carefully at how these rises will impact schools and considering what additional support we could offer.
‘Cost increases should be seen in the wider context of funding for schools. In 2022-23, core schools funding will increase by £4 billion compared to 2021-22 – a 7 per cent cash terms per pupil boost – and this will help schools to meet wider cost pressures, including energy prices.
‘All schools can access a range of tools to help them get the best value from their resources, including recommended deals for energy costs and services related to energy.’