One in three MPs do not believe schools are in funding crisis, despite repeated warnings over austerity

'This is a crisis. This isn't a blip. This isn't a little problem'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Thursday 29 November 2018 17:01 GMT
Hundreds of headteachers march on Westminster over school funding ‘crisis

A third of MPs do not believe that schools in Britain are in the grip of a funding crisis, despite headteachers increasingly warning of cuts to teaching staff and support for the most vulnerable.

A new survey finds that the majority of Conservative MPs disagree a school funding crisis exists.

The poll, carried out by the NAHT headteachers’ union and ComRes, reveals that more than half (54 per cent) of MPs accept that schools are in a financial crisis, but one in three do not.

The findings comes after more than two thousand headteachers took part in an “unprecedented” march on Westminster in September demanding increased funding for vital resources for schools.

Parents are being asked to fork out for essentials – such as loo rolls, paper and pens – and increasingly schools are considering a four-and-a-half day week, heads and unions have previously warned.

But the survey, of 151 MPs, shows that nearly two in three (63 per cent) Tory MPs do not accept that schools in the UK are experiencing a funding crisis, compared to just 1 per cent of Labour MPs.

Last month, the chancellor Philip Hammond faced widespread backlash from teachers, parents and unions after he said in the Budget a one-off £400m bonus would help schools “buy the little extras they need”.

The research, which was weighted by party and region to be representative of the House of Commons, was released on the same day peers debated education funding in Westminster.

During the debate in the House of Lords, a Labour former education secretary said schools are in the grip of a funding crisis that the Government is failing to acknowledge.

Baroness Morris of Yardley said: “It seems to me that we have got a government at the moment which is not yet at the stage of acknowledging that a problem is there.”

The Labour peer also said money had been “squandered” by putting cash into “pet projects” such as free schools, some of which had subsequently closed.

She said: “This is a crisis. This isn’t a blip. This isn’t a little problem that has got to be dealt with ... and there’s no hope on the horizon for things getting better.

But education minister Lord Agnew of Oulton said the picture was “far less bleak” than commonly portrayed, although schools had faced cost pressures.

Lord Agnew said ministers were not in denial about the cost pressures faced by schools, but insisted extensive support was being provided to ensure they got the best value out of every pound.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “School leaders know there is a funding crisis in schools because they see the devastating effects of it every day; on the quality of children’s education, on teachers and staff, on school buildings and resources, and on their own mental health as they struggle to balance the books.”

He added: “The question is: what are they going to do about it? Only new money from the Treasury can solve the funding crisis in schools, and we need MPs from every party to put pressure on the chancellor and No 10.”

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