Headteachers write to more than 300,000 parents over school budgets at ‘breaking point’

'It is make-or-break time for our schools'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Friday 14 December 2018 01:25 GMT
Hundreds of headteachers march on Westminster over school funding ‘crisis

Headteachers in the northeast of England have written to more than 300,000 parents over fears that their school budgets are at “breaking point”.

The letter - sent ahead of the end of the Christmas term - urges parents to write to their MPs and sign a parliamentary petition to increase school funding and to support their child’s future.

One head warns that the financial situation for schools has become “critical” and children will suffer unless action is taken.

There is a “crisis” in funding for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and maintained nursery schools face “a cliff-edge” amid funding cuts, the letter warns.

Schools have had to cut back on teaching staff, support for more vulnerable pupils, free extracurricular activities, and in some cases parents have had to fork out for books and materials, it says.

The letter suggests that average funding will be down by £189,776 per northeast secondary school in 2019/20 compared with 2015/16.

It says: “Schools are having to make difficult choices on how to spend their limited funding as their income has not kept pace with the rise in costs since 2010.

”All schools are working very hard to make ends meet but this is becoming increasingly difficult and verging on almost impossible.

“With increased pressures on school budgets and cuts to services that support our most vulnerable young people and their families, it is make-or-break time for our schools.”

The letter, supported by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), adds that funding in the northeast will be cut on average by £30,904 per primary school in 2019/20 compared with 2015/16.

Mustafaa Malik, headteacher of Harlow Green Community Primary School in Gateshead, said: “The financial situation for schools has become critical.

“We are now in a position where Gateshead schools must make redundancies with a great many other schools being informed that they will be in a potential deficit budget over the next two to three years.

“Schools have an ever-increasing part to play in supporting children and their wider families, but this is being expected whilst our resources are reducing.

“In the end, it is the children within our communities who will suffer – they deserve better.”

It is the first time a parent-focused campaign has been run over such a large area, the NAHT says. It comes after the chancellor Philip Hammond faced backlash from teachers after he said in the Budget a one-off £400m bonus would help schools “buy the little extras they need”.

The petition, stated in Gateshead, has already received more than 28,000 signatures.

Peter King, headteacher at the Federation of Mowden Schools in Darlington, said: “Westminster just won't acknowledge how difficult the funding issue is here in the northeast.

“School leaders have previously tried to shield parents from the difficulties but because the situation is not sustainable, we now need parents to be fully aware.

“There simply are not the savings to be made that can make up for the huge shortfall in our funding. It feels very unfair to our children and to our staff.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “The government continues to use misleading figures about school funding and standards. This needs to stop, and parents need to be told the truth.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Every child, regardless of where they grow up, deserves a high quality education. That’s why we have launched Opportunity North East, backed by a £24m investment, to boost opportunities and improve outcomes for young people across the northeast region.

“Under the National Funding Formula, the North East will receive an increase of 2.5 per cent per pupil for its schools by 2019-2020, compared to 2017-18 funding levels – which is an increase of £55.6m when rising pupil numbers are also taken into account.

“Local authorities continue to have flexibility on how this funding is distributed across schools.

“While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more. That’s why we’re supporting schools and head teachers, and their local authorities, to make the most of every pound.”

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