The government must ensure that schools have sufficient spending power to keep up with their rising costs, the National Association of Head Teachers (
NAHT) has said.
A survey of 1,069 school leaders revealed that nearly two in three respondents (64 per cent) were making significant cuts or dipping into funding reserves to avoid deficits.
Seven per cent were already running a budget deficit.
Nearly half (45 per cent) of head teachers said their budget would be untenable within two years, based on current projections, and two-thirds (67 per cent) thought they would be unable to balance the books in four years' time.
One of the most conclusive findings from the survey showed that four out of five school leaders (82 per cent) felt standards would suffer if they suffered further budget cuts.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, pointed out that school budgets will be impacted by higher costs for national insurance and teachers' pensions, which are due to rise by over five per cent from this school year, while education spending is flat.
He warned that this situation is pushing schools "closer to breaking point", with heads being forced to cut expenditure on teachers and teaching assistants, maintenance and other essentials.
"The money coming into schools is not keeping up with the expenditure they face," Mr Hobby said.
"As the IFS pointed out recently, the government's funding commitment equates to the first real-terms cut in education spending since the 1990s. Education is an investment in the future, leading eventually to higher productivity, better social outcomes and reduced spending on other public services; cuts to this budget are a false economy."
The NAHT recommended measures including automatic registration for children eligible for pupil premium funding, rather than schools having to determine eligibility.
Posted by Tim Colman