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Kent schools facing huge energy bills warn of job losses and a recruitment freeze

Spiralling energy bills could force schools to make staff redundant in a bid to balance the books, a leading Kent headteacher has warned.

Some are already implementing a recruitment freeze and not filling classroom vacancies as they attempt to limit the impact of one of the most serious budget crises they have faced.

Mike Walters, the chairman of the Kent Headteachers Association, said that without some kind of emergency help from the government, many schools would struggle.

He says small measures, such as turning the heating off and having lights on for less to try and curb rocketing bills, would not be enough.

“Frankly, I think schools are going to have to probably make more difficult decisions than that," Mr Walters, who is head teacher of St Anselm's in Canterbury, told KentOnline.

"One would like to think we're not going to get to the point where schools are going to have to restructure and make people redundant.

"No head teacher or governing body ever wants to do that.

Mike Walters warns some schools are facing £100,000 energy bill increases
Mike Walters warns some schools are facing £100,000 energy bill increases

"But certainly at the moment, I think some schools are going to run with vacancies rather than replace staff who have left and that more radical action might be needed.”

He warns that some schools are in an even worse situation, because contracts they negotiated three or five years ago would be coming to an end - exposing them still further.

“Given the sort of [energy bill] increase we're looking at - between 100% and 150% - for a medium-sized school of about 1,000 pupils, that is probably going to be an increase in the region of £100,000, a very substantial development,” Mr Walters said.

Asked if schools were likely to need a government bail-out, he said: “I think some will. Frankly, there will be schools who don't have those reserves. They will run out of cash. Schools will have to be supported in some way.”

Mr Walters says the crisis carries a risk that pupils might not get the support they needed in classroom.

Steve Chalke, boss of Oasis Academies
Steve Chalke, boss of Oasis Academies

“If a teaching assistant leaves and is not replaced then that's going to have an impact," he said. "So yes, I think we will see a compromise that isn't going to be helpful.”

Last week, Steve Chalke, the boss of the Oasis Academies chain which runs the Sheppey secondary school, said: “Whatever happens, we have got to keep the heating on in schools. We can’t allow students to freeze.

"We may be able to turn it down by a degree or two and ask everybody to wear jumpers.”

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