Energy crisis could mean Bedford schools lose staff or consider shorter week

The impact could be “actually terrifying” said a union representative

By John Guinn, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 12th July 2022, 5:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th July 2022, 5:35 pm

Rising energy and fuel costs mean some schools are considering a shorter school week during the winter.

And some schools could lose staff members that currently drive to work as they look to more local alternatives to save money.

Deirdre Murphy, National Education Union (NEU) representative, told the Bedford Schools Forum yesterday (Monday, July 11) that the impact of rising energy on schools needs to be addressed – and said it could be “actually terrifying”.

Chris Morris, acting chief officer for education, SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or a Disability) and schools infrastructures

“They shouldn’t have to face those high energy costs because that will take away from the education provision for a lot of schools,” she said.

“What will happen is you will see that support staff will be the ones laid off in order to counter that cost.

“I think this is something that definitely has to be constantly on a lot of agendas, not only here, but everywhere that we can.

“We have that conversation about maybe doing something jointly with the council, with schools, and with trade unions, in order to address that.

Deirdre Murphy, National Education Union

“Because it could be actually terrifying for schools,” she said.

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Chris Morris, acting chief officer for education, SEND (Special Educational Needs and/or a Disability) and schools infrastructures, replied: “The cost of energy crisis is across the board, it’s not just with regards to schools keeping the heating and electricity on.

“I’ve conducted many a school visit recently where they’re talking about losing staff who used to drive in and the cost of fuel is meaning that actually they’re looking at more local options.

Mr Morris said some areas are looking to reduce school days over the winter months to accommodate the rising energy costs, which, he added, the borough “obviously” wants to avoid.

“At this moment in time there’s no indication of an uplift in terms of from central government,” he added.

“Everyone’s seen October’s potential [energy price cap] uplift.

“We need to be thinking and factoring in what’s going to happen over those winter months to make sure we can keep the [school] doors open.

“So I don’t have the answer, but I’m looking at the conversations, seeing and willing to see what we can do together as a group of schools, as a group of unions, as a local authority, what we might be able to do,” he said.