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Teaching assistants cut in 75% of primary schools

Three-quarters of primary schools have had to cut teaching assistants numbers, despite the continued rise in pupils with special educational needs.

The annual Sutton Trust school funding survey reveals a worsening picture for school finances. As well as staff cuts, activities are also being chopped.

Sir Peter Lampl

Sir Peter Lampl, the Sutton Trust founder, said the “erosion of schools funding coupled with rising costs is having a major impact on the ability of schools to provide the support that low-income students need”. 

“It is disgraceful that increasing numbers of school leaders are having to cut essential staff and essential co-curricular activities.”

The proportion of senior leaders reporting cuts in teaching staff (32 per cent), teaching assistants (69 per cent) and support staff (46 per cent) has risen this year.

At primary, 74 per cent of leaders said they have reduced the number of teaching assistants. This is up from 47 per cent in 2021.

Teaching assistants often provide support to pupils with additional needs.

‘Rapid deterioration’ in primary schools

Lampl added: “The situation for primary schools in particular is one of rapid deterioration, with half of them having to use funding to plug gaps that should be used for poorer pupils.”

In secondary schools, 38 per cent of leaders have cut teaching staff.

Schools in the north-east were the most likely to have reduced teaching staff (45 per cent), compared to between 16 and 36 per cent in other regions.

The proportion of schools cutting spending on trips and outings (50 per cent), alongside sports and other extracurricular activities (27 per cent) is the highest since the Sutton Trust’s polling began in 2017.

Around half of schools were not using pupil premium funding to plug gaps, according to the survey of 1,282 teachers by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

Daniel Kebede
Daniel Kebede

The government has promised to bring school funding back to 2010 levels. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said it was on track to meet the promise after recent increases meant school funding would reach £60 billion in 2024-25.

However, increased cost pressures are threatening to derail this.

The IFS has estimated that the government would have to provide £3.2 billion in extra funding to make up for the loss in the purchasing power of school budgets since 2010.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Successive surveys have shown that schools across the country are having to drop resources and cut staffing to the bone in order to survive. This repeatedly falls on deaf ears, however, and the government allows it not only to continue but to worsen.”

A DfE spokesperson said school funding is “the highest level ever in real terms per pupil, to support school leaders meet their costs”.

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