Energy prices in UK: Children may have to wear COATS as school finances are crippled by energy bills

Thousands of children may have to wear coats in classrooms to keep warm as rising energy bills cripple school finances, the head of an education foundation admitted today.

Richard Evans, chief executive of the Vale Academy Trust, said staff at the organization’s eight schools will face the difficult choice of whether to heat or teach this winter.

The Trust’s secondaries and primary in the Oxford and Abingdon area have thousands of children aged four to 18 years.

But as the cost of living continues to tighten for the nation, heating bills have quadrupled, potentially pushing the Trust’s schools into deficits.

Mr Evans said the result was that “tough decisions” had to be made to balance the books.

“If you look at our primary schools each one is facing an increase of £40,000 on these costs alone – heating and staff,” he said.

Thousands of children at eight schools run by the Vale Academy Trust may have to wear coats to class as the organization struggles with rising heating bills, the academy's chief executive has warned. An archive image is shown.

Thousands of children at eight schools run by the Vale Academy Trust may have to wear coats to class as the organization struggles with rising heating bills, the academy's chief executive has warned. An archive image is shown.

Thousands of children at eight schools run by the Vale Academy Trust may have to wear coats to class as the organization struggles with rising heating bills, the academy’s chief executive has warned. An archive image is shown.

Wantage CE Primary School is among eight in the Vale Academy Trust - which includes Oxford and Abingdon - that could struggle to pay for heating if energy bills skyrocket

Wantage CE Primary School is among eight in the Vale Academy Trust - which includes Oxford and Abingdon - that could struggle to pay for heating if energy bills skyrocket

Wantage CE Primary School is among eight in the Vale Academy Trust – which includes Oxford and Abingdon – that could struggle to pay for heating if energy bills skyrocket

Richard Evans, chief executive of the Academy Trust, said staff at the organization's schools will face the difficult choice of heating or teaching this winter

Richard Evans, chief executive of the Academy Trust, said staff at the organization's schools will face the difficult choice of heating or teaching this winter

Richard Evans, chief executive of the Academy Trust, said staff at the organization’s schools will face the difficult choice of heating or teaching this winter

“And for the secondary schools, it’s £300,000 each, depending on staffing levels.”

The budgets, which were shelved in April, did not take into account today’s inflation rate of 11.1 percent – the highest in 41 years.

The increase comes as the government has given teachers a pay rise – cash to be raised by schools already struggling with shrinking bank balances.

“There is little room for savings – the largest expense, 85 percent of our budget, is spent on staff,” Mr Evans said.

“We have an increasing number of children with special needs who need support, so we need to hire more staff to keep those costs going.”

To cut costs, all of the Trust’s buildings have been fitted with LED lighting, but the bills are still rising.

“I don’t want to be sensationalist, but it’s about reducing the heating time. Limiting heating is an option we need to look at,” the education leader said.

“We as a trust have not yet decided what we have to do. But we may need to ask children to wear their coats in classrooms as well, as we did in Covid times.

The Government is expected to announce plans to raise £20 billion in taxes alongside sweeping spending cuts as part of its autumn statement today.

“I don’t have much hope of getting more money. I don’t expect good news,’ said Mr Evans.

Among the schools that may have to choose between heating and teaching is Charlton Primary School, pictured

Among the schools that may have to choose between heating and teaching is Charlton Primary School, pictured

Among the schools that may have to choose between heating and teaching is Charlton Primary School, pictured

The Trust’s eight schools in the Oxford-Wantage-Didcot-Abingdon area are: Charlton Primary School, King Alfred’s Academy, Larkmead School, Millbrook Primary School, St James CE Primary School, St Nicholas CE Primary School, Thameside Primary School, Wantage CE Elementary school.

The Department for Education previously said it acknowledged the difficulties and is providing £53.8 billion in core funding.

The pledge came amid a warning that schools and colleges across the country are facing the prospect of significant cuts just to pay their energy bills.

A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) last month found that many school leaders wanted to reduce the number of teaching and support staff and increase class sizes to save money.

“I think this is a lot bleaker than anything we’ve seen before,” General Secretary Geoff Barton told the BBC last week.

“There are people who have been around the block in education who are telling us this is devastating, I can’t do this job anymore because of the impact it will be on children and young people and the quality of education.

Larkmead School in Abingdon is also part of the Vale Academy Trust and supports hundreds of secondary school aged students

Larkmead School in Abingdon is also part of the Vale Academy Trust and supports hundreds of secondary school aged students

Larkmead School in Abingdon is also part of the Vale Academy Trust and supports hundreds of secondary school aged students

“I think we’re at an incredibly critical juncture. I’ve never seen anything like it in my 32 years of training.’

William Smith, who is responsible for the Greenshaw Learning Trust, which has 24 schools across the country, warned that the pressure on minds is immense.

“I know some are in serious trouble. In a way, we’ve been fortunate that we’re a larger organization. We have built up quite significant reserves that put us in a strong position.

“To be able to take them in [costs] as a small foundation or school is much more difficult.’

The Department for Education said core funding of £53.8bn included a £4bn cash increase for this financial year – an increase of seven per cent per pupil.

A spokesperson added: “All schools will benefit from the Energy Bill Relief Scheme by reducing their energy spending and giving them more certainty about their budget during the winter months.

“We also provide schools with tools and information to help them get the best value from their resources.”

https://www.soundhealthandlastingwealth.com/uncategorized/uk-energy-prices-children-may-have-to-wear-coats-as-school-finances-are-crippled-by-energy-bills/ Energy prices in UK: Children may have to wear COATS as school finances are crippled by energy bills

Brian Ashcraft

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