Schools forced to cut teachers’ and teaching assistants’ posts to make ends meet

Real-terms cuts to school funding since 2015 have led to a big reduction in the number of secondary teachers, teaching assistants and support staff in England, says research published today (Wednesday) by the School Cuts alliance of education unions.

Schools have been doing all they can to shield their pupils from the damage caused by £2.8 billion being cut from school budgets since 2015, but the lack of investment is really biting. These cuts are now undeniably affecting front-line teaching.

The latest School Cuts research – drawn solely from Government figures – shows that staff numbers in secondary schools have fallen by 15,000 between 2014/15 and 2016/17 despite having 4,500 more pupils to teach. This equates to an average loss of 5.5 staff members in each school since 2015; in practical terms this means 2.4 fewer classroom teachers, 1.6 fewer teaching assistants and 1.5 fewer support staff.

The cuts to front-line teaching posts are happening at a time when pupil-to-classroom teacher ratios are rising, which means bigger classes and less individual attention for children.

These average figures also mask significant regional variation. Despite the Government’s claims to be concerned about underfunded areas, some of the largest staffing cuts are in the areas with the lowest average funding per pupil such as: Reading, Isle of Wight, Central Bedfordshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, York, Derby and Milton Keynes.

The introduction of the National Funding Formula can’t solve this problem unless the funding cuts are reversed and significant extra resources included for underfunded schools. Four of the five worst hit local authorities – Middlesbrough, Reading, Isle of Wight, Doncaster – face further budget cuts over the next two years, even after taking into account any gains predicted by the Department for Education from its new funding formula. This will inevitably put even more pressure on staff numbers.

The situation is likely to get even worse, as it’s predicted that 17,942 (nine out of ten) primary and secondary schools in England and Wales will be hit by a real-terms cut in funding per pupil between 2015-19.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools have had to make substantial budget cuts because of Government underfunding and this impacts on staffing numbers as staffing makes up the majority of their expenditure. As a result they are less able to give individual support to children, they cannot sustain a full range of curriculum options, and class sizes are rising. This is most damaging to children who need extra support and whose parents cannot afford to supplement their education with activities outside school. If the government is to live up to its promise to improve social mobility, it must give schools the funding that they need.”

Karen Leonard, National Officer at GMB, said: “The education funding crisis has been made in Whitehall but is being played out across our schools. Theresa May needs to stop burying her head in the sand, get a grip of what is happening at the DfE, and start fully funding our education system.

“At a time when we are seeing widespread redundancies among experienced schools support staff who provide targeted front line pupil support we need the Prime Minister to step in, protect our children and young people’s education and stop experienced schools staff losing their jobs and leaving our education sector.”

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “School budgets are at breaking point. School leaders have made every other possible efficiency and now it is impossible for many schools to avoid making redundancies, to continue to keep class sizes at an acceptable level, and to offer a full and rounded curriculum to all pupils. The school funding crisis is real. Funding increases need to be in real terms, not in cash terms. We will keep on making our case loudly and clearly, alongside the thousands of parents, governors, school staff and others who have been campaigning tirelessly together for over a year.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Our analysis of the Government’s figures now confirms what teachers and head teachers have been saying for the last two years: the cuts to education are damaging for children’s education. Schools are cutting back on teacher numbers and the pupil-to-teacher ratio is worsening. Children only have one chance to go to school. We should be investing in this generation of young people who will see such profound changes during their lifetimes. Ensuring schools have sufficient funding to educate our children properly must become the top priority for Education Secretary Damian Hinds.”

 Jon Richards, Head of Education at UNISON, said: “Job cuts are disproportionately affecting teaching assistants and support staff in schools across England. As a result there is now a staggering one teaching assistant for 67 pupils in secondary schools. Children with special educational needs and disabilities rely heavily on teaching assistants, so sadly they’ll be suffering the most as a result of these devastating staff cuts.

“The education system is buckling under the weight of funding cuts, which are driving away staff who haven’t already lost their jobs, and jeopardising our children’s future.”

Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary at Unite, said: “The education and wellbeing of future generations is being harmed by cuts to school budgets. Schools across the country are being forced to cut staff, leading to less educational support for children and bigger class sizes. The Government should be investing in our schools to give young people the best start in life and the best chance possible to fulfil their potential.”

Editor’s notes
All the data is available at

The data is drawn from a comparison of School workforce in England: November 2016 and School workforce in England: November 2014. We have also used Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2015 and Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2017 to calculate the pupil: classroom teacher ratio and the pupil: teaching assistant ratio. Schools without a full set of staff numbers on the workforce census for both years were excluded from the calculations.

ASCL: Richard Bettsworth 07885 467344/ 0116 299 1122

GMB: 07958 156846

NAHT: Steven George, Head of Press & Media – 01444 472 483 / 07970907730; Email:

NEU Press Office – direct lines 0207 380 4706, Out of hours: 07879480061

UNISON: Liz Chinchen – 0207 121 5463 / 07778 158175; Email:

UNITE: Alex Flynn – 0203 371 2066/ 07967 665 869; Email: