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Rising costs for schools will mean "direct cuts to young people's futures", warned a headteacher at a trust which has seen its gas bill go up by £100,000.
Passmores Cooperative Learning Community - which oversees four schools in Harlow, Essex, and which featured in the Channel 4 series Educating Essex - has seen its costs go up by over £1m since last year.
As the cost of living affects parents, there are fears that inflation and rising energy prices mean schools will not have the resources to act as the safety net for children from struggling families.
Vic Goddard, the trust's chief executive, said: "From the end of last year's budget to the start of this year's budget our costs have gone up just over £1m and our income has gone up by around £500,000, so there's a deficit of half a million pounds. That is just to do exactly what we did last year.
"Nothing new - not new stuff, not new innovation, not pushing any more boundaries - just to do what we did last year costs us £500,000 more this year."
The added expenses are causing Mr Goddard sleepless nights, with staff also worried about their job security, he said.
The current cohort of students have already been through several years of Covid chaos and could now have their education impacted once again.
The school is also expecting to have to offer further support to pupils as families struggle to make ends meet at home, and will be open between 6am and 10pm daily so that children can have somewhere warm to stay.
Calling for more government funding as a result of rising costs, Mr Goddard said: "If we can't invest in our children coming out of a pandemic when they have lost so much, when are we going to?
"This is an absolute direct cut to young people's futures and it can't continue.
"I should not be here as a teacher thinking about how to pay the gas bill to keep the building warm and keep the lights on, rather than asking how do these young people get the best possible outcomes."
In response to the concerns, a Department for Education spokesperson said: "Cost increases should be seen in the wider context of funding for schools.
"In 2022-23, core schools funding will increase by £4bn compared to 2021-22 - a 7% cash terms per pupil boost. This means increased costs will be broadly affordable for schools in 2022-23."
The term has not even begun, but both schools and families say they are struggling.
As the rising cost of living bites for families, there is support available, such as the Level Trust's Uniform Exchange in Luton.
The swap shop said it had seen demand increase by over 100% compared to a year ago.
Maria Cristescu, who used the shop to look for a uniform for her five-year-old who is starting Reception, said: "It's an excellent idea.
"We're stretched with a budget. I'm self-employed trying to maintain and make ends meet.
"It's a very good option if they have the brand of blazers. I don't need to pay as much for the uniform."
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