Nearly two-thirds of head teachers (64%) in England are having to dip into their reserves or cut back on basics, like equipment, building maintenance and teaching assistants, according to a new report.
The National Association of Head Teachers warns that the rising employer costs for national insurance and teachers' pensions will see some schools reach breaking point.
According to a survey of 1,069 head teachers, schools are having to cut back on things like equipment, maintenance and teaching assistants. Over three-quarters (76%) of heads were using reserves to pay for such basics.
Half of school leaders said they had cut their maintenance budget and the numbers or hours of teaching assistants, while 64% said they had reduced investment in equipment.
More worryingly, the survey found that almost half of head teachers (45%) thought their budget would be untenable, on current projections, within two years.
The majority (67%) said they would not be able to balance the books in four years' time, and 7% of those surveyed were already running a deficit. Most (82%) said budget cuts would lower standards.
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby told BBC news: "Flat cash education spending at a time of rising costs is pushing many schools closer to breaking point.
"Employer costs for national insurance and teachers' pensions will increase by over 5% from this school year, adding to already over-stretched budgets.
"School leaders are being forced to cut spending in all areas, including essential maintenance and - most worryingly - on teachers and teaching assistants.
"Education is an investment in the future, leading eventually to higher productivity, better social outcomes and reduced spending on other public services - cuts to this budget are a false economy."
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