SCHOOLS in Wales are at "breaking point" amid potential budget cuts for next year.

A survey by school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru found 87% of members would have to make cuts to help fund the 2023/24 award for teachers and leaders.

NAHT officials have been told by all 22 local authorities in Wales that they cannot offer the additional money the union says is crucial to ensure the much-needed salary uplift is fully-funded.

The union’s new report, Fair Funding For Wales, reveals more than three quarters (76%) of school leaders taking part in the survey said they did not have enough headroom in this year’s budget to cover the pay award for teachers and leaders.

Members were most likely to report that they would have to reduce investment in equipment for the school (71%), cut the number of hours of teaching assistants (66%) and reduce staffing by not recruiting when staff leave or retire (58%).

Half (50%) said they would have to reduce spending on additional, targeted support for pupils, while 44% said senior leaders would have to take on additional teaching responsibilities and 42% said they would need to reduce non-contact time for their additional learning needs (ALN) coordinator.

Nearly a third said (31%) they would be forced to reduce the hours of teaching staff and cut non-educational support and services for children (32%), while a quarter said they would need to scale back or change the curriculum (24%).

NAHT Cymru says the issues stem from reductions in UK government funding to Wales, with real-terms funding for schools falling by around 6% since 2009/10. At the same time, schools are facing inflationary pressures of £177m in 2023-24 and £114m in 2024-25.

NAHT Cymru national secretary, Laura Doel said: “The pay award for our school leaders and teachers was much-needed after a decade of severe real-terms pay cuts, which were undermining efforts to attract and retain staff and offer children the best possible education.

“Schools were already struggling to balance the books even before the pay award.

“So it is a hammer blow for many of them to learn this award is not being fully-funded, despite some additional funding from the Welsh Government to support it.

“They are now at breaking point and facing really unpalatable decisions around reducing staffing, teaching assistant hours, and support for pupils who need it most.

“We urge local authorities and the Welsh Government to recognise this and work with us to ensure all schools have the funding they need both to deliver fair pay for staff and offer the learning experience pupils deserve.”

NAHT general secretary, Paul Whiteman, added: “These survey findings show in the starkest possible terms the terrible choices dedicated school leaders and their staff are facing.

“Our members are stoic and endlessly flexible in working to deliver the best possible education for children in the face of adversity - so for them to be warning of such devastating cuts is a real cause for alarm.

“This new report isn’t about playing the blame game. It’s about urging politicians and public servants to acknowledge the unsustainable pressures facing schools in Wales and the impact they will continue to have on children’s education without urgent action.”

NAHT Cymru is calling for school budgets across Wales to be properly and equally funded to cover the cost of the pay award and wants a commitment from local authorities and the Welsh Government to protect education funding. 

The union wants greater transparency around schools funding, with clear breakdowns of what money is coming in, where it goes and how calculations on spending are made.

It is urging local authorities to sign up to its In this Together pledge – committing to work with education professionals to lobby for improved funding from the Welsh Government to address widespread regional differences in money allocated per pupil.