ASCL responds to energy bill relief scheme

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the energy bill relief scheme for non-domestic customers published by the Department for Business this morning.
We are pleased that the government has published details of how the energy bill relief scheme will work for non-domestic customers, including schools and colleges, and, crucially, the gas and electricity unit prices they can expect to pay. This move was essential as schools and colleges were facing absolutely massive hikes in energy costs which were simply unaffordable and would have caused an immediate financial meltdown in the sector. We will now be looking at the scheme in detail and asking for feedback from school and college leaders.

“The glaring problem is the fact that the scheme is time-limited to six months. The government says it will review the operation of the scheme in three months’ time to inform decisions on future support after March 2023. However, this uncertainty makes it impossible for schools and colleges to plan financially with any degree of confidence because they could be knocked off course at a later date by steep rises to energy bills if government support drops off. School and college budgets are incredibly tight and any financial ill-wind is potentially devastating. We will be pressing the government for a firmer commitment to the sector.

“Furthermore, energy prices are only one of the massive financial pressures facing schools and colleges. The other issue is the fact that pay awards for teachers and support staff have been agreed at a national level but there is no additional government funding for schools and colleges to be able to afford the cost of these awards. The pay awards are fully deserved and needed – and in fact do not go far enough – but the government’s expectation that this will be paid for out of existing budgets that are already very tight is completely unrealistic and unsustainable. The government must improve the funding settlement for schools and colleges