Schools face £10,000 bill for full re-opening in September

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Schools face additional costs of around £10,000 in order to allow all pupils to return to the classroom in September – and they are unlikely to be reimbursed by the government.

On top of this, it is estimated that schools have lost revenues of up to £16,000 as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The figures have been revealed by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), which is calling for action from the Department for Education (DfE) to cover all costs associated with bringing pupils back.

Early in the pandemic, the government said it would reimburse schools for the additional costs incurred as a result of the crisis.

However, guidance published in April and updated in July stipulates that funding is only available to cover “specific items”. These are detailed as increased premises-related costs (including keeping schools open during Easter), support for free school meals (FSM) provision for children not attending school, and additional cleaning costs.

The NAHT is unhappy that the additional funding will not be available to cover back to school preparations for September. In a statement the union says: “It is now clear that costs incurred by schools to meet the government’s guidance on the safe re-admittance of pupils are not covered. These include buying more hand-washing stations, implementing additional cleaning regimes and additional staff requirements.”

Furthermore, the DfE guidance says that the additional funding will only be available to “schools that are unable to meet such additional costs from their existing resources, or which they could only meet by drawing down on reserves and undermining their long-term financial sustainability”. It stipulates specifically that “lost self-generated income is not covered by this grant”.

The NAHT research was carried out in June and involved 1,821 school leaders. It asked them about the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their schools between mid-March and September 1.

The average total estimated additional cost to a school in order to allow pupils to return to school is estimated in the survey at £9,990. And the average total estimated value of lost income (covering things like rental or lettings) is £15,915. Delving into the figures further, we find that:

  • 64 per cent of the schools have incurred additional staff costs for cleaning or site management
  • 59 per cent of schools have incurred additional costs for teaching staff (supply, temporary, or permanent) or for additional teaching assistant time.
  • 49 per cent have purchased or rented hand-washing stations.
  • 99 per cent have purchased additional cleaning supplies (such as gel, sanitiser and disinfectant).
  • 95 per cent have purchased personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • 85 per cent have purchased signage, traffic cones, tape and barriers.

NAHT general secretary, Paul Whiteman, says that the DfE must not fail to support schools facing “significant costs as a result of putting in place the safety measures required by the government”.

He added: “School leaders have had to quickly implement measures to make their schools safe for pupils. This has included sourcing additional hand-washing facilities, PPE equipment and implementing extensive cleaning regimes. On top of this, schools have spent thousands of pounds providing free school meals for pupils when the national system failed to work.

“The restrictions being placed around the government’s reimbursement scheme could mean that a proportion of the additional funds schools are due to receive will be offset by the Covid-19 costs they have already faced. Every pound spent on cleaning materials is a pound that cannot be spent on a child’s education.”

The DfE reimbursement grants are limited to £25,000 (for schools of up to 250 pupils), £30,000 (251-500 pupils), £50,000 (501-1,000 pupils), £75,000 (more than 1,000 pupils), and £50,000 (special schools and alternative provision). Schools are being asked to make their claims by Tuesday, July 21.

  • DfE: Coronavirus (COVID-19): Financial support for schools, April 2020 (updated July 2020):

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