School leaders worried heating costs could ‘cripple budgets’ this winter

With the prospect of schools being told to expect a near 50 per cent hike in their gas bills, one council supplier has asked ministers for a bail-out to meet rising energy costs.

Energy costs are often the second highest expenditure in schools (behind the annual wage bill). 

Commenting as councils raise their concerns over heating costs for schools this winter, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “With energy costs skyrocketing, the government urgently needs to look at how schools might be impacted this winter.

COVID-19 guidance on classroom ventilation is still ‘open some windows’, but schools do need to be kept at a reasonable temperature for the children in them, which means heating use – and bills – could rapidly start to cripple already pressured school budgets.

“We are already hearing of schools seeing their gas bills being dramatically increased, even when they thought they were locked into a fixed tariff. The government needs to recognise this and ensure schools have the funding and resources they need to keep staff and students comfortable and safe.”

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), represents more than 34,399 school leaders in early years, primary, secondary and special schools, making it the largest association for school leaders in the UK.

Paddy Russell, headteacher at Ladybridge High School in Bolton, said: “We are talking about a significant amount of money. It’s tens of thousands of pounds, which are obviously teachers’ salaries.

“An extra 20 per cent – about £17,000 for electricity and £12,000 for gas – has been budgeted this winter if heating is to be on more because of open windows.”

Tim Golding, head of strategic partnerships at Zenergi, which supports 3,000 schools to find energy deals, estimated around two-thirds of schools were on fixed contracts, meaning their prices should be stable. The remaining third were on flexible rates, meaning they could feel the brunt of rising costs.

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