Almost a third (32%) of primary school leaders say they have had to cut back on information technology (IT) equipment because of financial constraints, according to a new survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).
In secondary schools, the figure is 20%.
The findings form part of a report on catch-up funding published today (21 April) by the Sutton Trust.
While a higher proportion of poll respondents reported having to cut back on teaching and support staff, the widespread reduction in edtech spending is nevertheless a cause for concern in its own right. As the move to remote learning during the pandemic underlined, poorer students and schools are on the wrong side of a digital divide, even without factoring in the likely impact of a cut in IT investment.
Given that the fund is intended to provide targeted support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, it might be expected that helping pupils access remote learning technology would rank fairly highly.
Instead, a third (33%) of primary and secondary headteachers report using the pupil premium to plug gaps in their general budget.
The government must make an enormous investment in education recovery so that all pupils are given a chance to succeed – Sir Peter Lampl, Sutton Trust
When questioned about their specific priority for spending money received from the initiative, they say they would focus funds on such areas as additional teachers and teaching assistants (30%), increased one-to-one tuition (28%), and early intervention schemes (11%). Investment in edtech is not mentioned.
More than half (57%) of headteachers in England report that funding intended to help pupils recover from the pandemic has been insufficient this year, with the issue particularly acute in early years schooling; only 30% of primary heads report that funding has been sufficient.
“Today’s polling shows that schools are facing monumental challenges as a result of the pandemic, with schools having to cut crucial staff and support for pupils,” said Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust.
“With all these ongoing pressures, dedicated funding for poorer pupils through the pupil premium is more crucial than ever. It’s a disgrace that a third of heads still report using pupil premium funding to plug budget gaps. The government must make an enormous investment in education recovery so that all pupils are given a chance to succeed”.
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