New research from the Publishers Assocation (PA) has exposed the "tough" financial choices facing headteachers, with a fifth of primary and almost a quarter of secondary headteachers in England anticipating "significant funding shortalls" over the next three years.
Ahead of the budget, which will be revealed by Chancellor George Osborne on Wednesday (16th March), the independent survey found that up to a fifth of primary (18%) and almost a quarter (23%) of secondary headteachers in England anticipate "significant funding shortfalls" over the next three years. Such concerns have "more than doubled" since the government’s last funding announcement at Autumn Statement last year, the report said.
Osborne said at the weekend he expects to make further cuts to public spending when the budget is announced on Wednesday, the equivalent to 50p in every £100, by 2020.
The research by the PA also revealed that a further 37% of primary and 38% of secondary headteachers in England accept there is a "real possibility of funding shortfalls". The report found that these financial pressures will have a "significant" impact on the ability of schools to purchase classroom materials, with primary headteachers expecting this to affect their expenditure on library materials (30%) and digital content (27%) and secondary headteachers concerned about expenditure on printed materials (30%) and teacher resources (32%).
These pressures come at a time when headteachers are "increasingly recognising the importance of good quality digital content and textbooks in raising standards", the PA report said. Publishers' digital content was ranked the highest resource in raising standards with free online resources falling out of favour.
Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the PA, said: “This report should serve as a wakeup call to ministers of the direct impact that cuts in budgets will have on the classroom. Teachers increasingly recognise the importance of a range of published content in raising standards and it is of great concern that schools predict that their ability to buy these resources will be reduced in this way.
“Literacy skills for 16 – 24 year-olds in England are currently at the bottom on OECD rankings. If the government is serious about reversing this decline, it needs to ensure that teachers have the best materials at their disposal and that school libraries can be properly resourced”.
The report, called 3 Education, was commissioned by The PA to review the impact of changes in school budgets and priorities in learning resource provision. An online survey of members of the National Education Research Panel (NERP) was conducted following the Autumn Statement on 25 November 2015, with 1,244 responses received.