Family & Education

Schools 'do not have the money' to pay soaring energy bills

Increase in gas and electricity costs come as schools are trying to work how to fund salary rises for teachers


Schools were anxiously waiting to hear details of government support this week as rising energy costs threatened to further squeeze their budgets.

Joshua Rowe, chairman of the King David High School in Manchester, described  the “colossal increase” in energy prices as an “absolute nightmare”.

While the government had announced a significant pay rise for teachers in August, he said, “No one is giving us the funding to cover this”.

Schools, he warned, would “just not have the money to pay for the energy costs — it’s as simple as that”.

Patrick Moriarty, head of JCoSS in East Barnet, said, “Rising energy costs are painful but dwarfed by the expected salary rises. Teachers certainly deserve the increase, but schools must be funded to pay it. 

“With typically 80 per cent of school budgets going on salaries, even a small percentage increase is a six-figure sum which would likely push most schools into deficit, with the loss of staff the only viable way to balance the books.”

While his school had a fixed price contract for electricity, he said, “for gas the expected increase is huge, and unaffordable without eating into teaching, learning and staffing costs. We hope that the new package of support will extend to all users, not just domestic ones.”

Hannele Reece, head of King Solomon High School in Essex, said energy was already using up four per cent of the budget — equivalent to the cost of five experienced teachers.

That was “before we put the heating on, because obviously we have not had the heating on during the warmer months”, she explained. “Once we have to put the heating on because the cold weather hits, I anticipate we will spend far more.”

Energy costs had increased 300 per cent, “and without support I do worry about how all schools, not least ours will cope. Especially on top of unstained pay rises which leave schools facing decisions between learning resources and staffing costs.”

The Jewish Community Academy Trust received a grant earlier this year of nearly £675,000 to install low-carbon heating in three of its four schools and implement other energy-efficiency measures.

A spokesman for the trust said, “Significant work has been taking place across JCAT this summer to implement low-carbon heating solutions. Schools are predicted to cut carbon emissions by almost half as a result of these changes, with significant financial savings.”

But JCAT “would welcome further government support to cope with rising costs, which are set to affect us all this winter”.

Spencer Lewis, executive head of the Yavneh schools in Hertfordshire, said, “Rising energy costs are a worry and is something on which we are keeping a very close eye. We negotiate our energy supply through a special contract negotiator but every penny spent on energy means less spent on the pupils.”

Marc Shoffren, head of Alma Primary in Barnet, said, it was “ok for now — we have a contract fixed for a period.” But what was affecting the school was “the planned increase in teachers’ salaries which the gov

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