Cost of Covid safety measures hits £8,000 for this term alone

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

Since the beginning of term, schools have spent an average of more than £8,000 implementing Covid-19 safety measures, and yet there is little prospect of these costs being reimbursed.

School leaders are angry at being left to foot the substantial bill of cleaning and safety measures with no financial support from the government.

A survey of more than 2,000 members of the National Association of Head Teachers, which represents schools leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, found that the average spend on safety measures so far this term stands at £8,017.

Furthermore, the school leaders, the majority of whom were from primary schools, estimate that they have lost out on an average of £9,755 in income this term because Covid restrictions have led to a fall in demand for school facilities.

This comes on top of similar NAHT research covering the spring and summer terms, which found that between March and September schools had already spent an average of £9,990 and lost income to the tune of £15,915, on average.

The most common Covid-related costs for the schools in the latest survey were:

  • Cleaning supplies such as gel, sanitiser and disinfectant (99 per cent).
  • Personal protective equipment (83 per cent).
  • Sundries, such as pedal bins (82 per cent).
  • Signage, traffic cones, tape and barriers (78 per cent).
  • Additional staff costs: cleaners or site staff (74 per cent).
  • Facilitating remote learning for pupils (68 per cent).
  • Additional hand-washing stations (53 per cent).

It comes after Headteacher Update’s sister secondary education magazine SecEd reported that secondary schools are having to spend as much as £39,000 a term on Covid safety measures.

Last year, the Department for Education (DfE) set up a grant scheme for schools to cover some of the exceptional costs of hygiene and cleaning measures. Grants of between £25,000 and £75,000 were available to eligible schools. This scheme now has been discontinued.

However, the NAHT research also reveals that three quarters of those who responded to the survey said that they had not received any of the exceptional costs funding announced by the DfE last year.

And of those that had received money, 52 per cent said it had reimbursed less than half of their additional expenditure due to Covid.

Writing in Headteacher Update this week, Anthony David, executive headteacher of two primaries in north London, said schools, especially smaller ones, were facing a financial cliff edge (David, 2020).

He cites the costs of Covid safety measures, but also of updating ageing ICT equipment in order to provide remote education, and the increasing costs of supply cover for staff who are forced to self-isolate.

He writes: “There are extraordinary demands being placed on schools at the moment and teachers and school leaders are certainly stepping up to the plate. But from a financial point of view we are walking on a cliff-edge. And without further support from the government, we may see an unexpected number of schools go into deficit this year, especially smaller schools.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, added: “These costs are not optional for schools, they are required by the government’s own guidance (DfE, 2020). Schools need the government to make good these unanticipated but necessary costs in order to protect school budgets so that pupils’ education is not adversely affected. It is frankly baffling that despite this, the government is refusing to provide schools with any financial support when it comes to Covid costs this term.

“School budgets for this year were allocated prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 and so did not take into account the additional spending required. This means that every pound spent on new safety measures, is a pound that can no longer be spent on pupils’ education.

“Not only will this potentially eat into any ‘catch-up’ funds schools receive, but it could push many into a deficit position. School budgets were under huge pressure already and this could be enough to send many over the edge.

“Schools are now facing the possibility of these costs spiralling as we move into the winter months ahead. We are calling on government to look at this again, and ensure that schools are given the resources they need to make them as safe as possible for pupils and staff.”

  • David: A financial cliff-edge: The costs of Covid, Headteacher Update, October 2020: https://bit.ly/33RV88g
  • DfE: Guidance for full opening: Schools, last updated October 1, 2020: https://bit.ly/38tdOfd
  • NAHT: Schools spending tens of thousands of pounds on safety measures without financial support from government, October 2020: https://bit.ly/30VyOsH
  • SecEd: Secondary schools report bills of as much as £39K a term for Covid safety measures, September 2020: https://bit.ly/33h9COK


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