17,000 pupils risk being in schools that can't pay their energy bills as reserves are 'sacrificed to energy companies'

7 September 2022, 17:48 | Updated: 7 September 2022, 17:54

CEO of GLF Schools speaks to Tom Swarbrick

By Sophie Barnett

More than 17,000 pupils risk being in schools that are unable to afford their energy bills as school reserves are being "sacrificed to energy companies", it has been warned.

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Jon Chaloner, CEO of GLF schools - the ninth largest multi-academy trust in the country which provides education for 17,000 students - warned schools face going bankrupt as energy bills spiral.

Speaking to LBC's Tom Swarbrick, Mr Chaloner said that one of the primary schools' energy bills is now five times higher - having soared from £40,000 a year to £231,000.

"For the trust as a whole, across the 42 schools, we are looking at significant increases," he told Tom.

"We've budgeted £1.7m extra for this year and two weeks ago, the middle of the summer holidays, we managed to then get told by our consultants that we ought to set aside an extra £1.4m for this year as well."

"Hang on, so you're going to have to set aside over £3m on the face of it?" Tom asked.

"From £1.5m to £4.5m, yes - across all the schools just to have energy function. It's critical."

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GLF Schools runs 37 primary and seven secondary schools in the UK, but is struggling to pay their bills and keep the lights on.

Mr Chaloner warned that without any help from the Government, more and more schools across the country will go bankrupt.

"We have to pay for it somehow, so we have to cut elsewhere," he told Tom.

"We've been watching it coming for the last 12 months, but it's really hit us hard."

Mr Chaloner, who has written to the Department for Education and constituency MPs, said they have been left to deal with the critical situation themselves.

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He warned that vital reserves schools have set aside for projects for children are being "sacrificed to energy companies".

"We will keep going until the lights are switched off, and that's not us switching the lights off - that's when it's done to us," he told Tom.

"We will keep on going and stay open, and do the best for our children, but the reserves that we have in order to spend on projects for our children are being sacrificed to energy companies."

Tomorrow, Liz Truss will outline her plans to tackle the energy crisis.

In her first Prime Minister's Questions as Prime Minister, Ms Truss said she understood people were struggling with high costs and said she "will be making an announcement to this house on that tomorrow".

Mr Chaloner said he is "hopeful" that there will be some help for school's in tomorrow's announcement.