Schools lobbying for fairer funding for pupils and admit future will be ‘challenging’

Longsands Academy PICTURE: Longsands

Longsands Academy PICTURE: Longsands - Credit: Archant

A secondary school head teacher has joined colleague in branding the response from the government to shrinking levels of pupil funding as “inadequate”.

Martin Paine, principal of Longsands Academy, St Neots, is among a growing number of senior teachers across the country who have been lobbying for a better funding deal for pupils.

In a letter, drafted by the Cambridgeshire Secondary Heads Association and sent out by schools across the county, Mr Paine told parents that “matters remain extremely challenging”.

“In short, schools are still not being provided with adequate funding and resource to deliver the level of provision and support that is expected and that our families and children deserve,” the letter said.

The letter points out that since 2010, school budgets have been reduced by eight per cent, and 20 per cent at post-16; alongside that, class sizes are rising and the curriculum is being restricted as a result.

“Increasingly, schools are being asked to support with children’s emotional health and wellbeing and frequently, we do not have adequate resource to meet a growing need,” it explains.

“Often, the most vulnerable students in our schools – those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – are bearing the brunt of cuts, and schools are struggling to provide the levels of support they are entitled to.

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“These issues are not simply affecting a few schools. They are common features across our education system up and down the country,” said Mr Paine.

“Levels of concern are so widespread amongst head teachers that we are all working together with a united voice.”

The secondary heads association has written to the Secretary of State for Education on three separate occasions since September 2018 and say they are “dismayed that he has chosen to ignore communications and repeated requests to meet”.

In a reply from a junior civil servant, head teachers were told: “I hope you will understand that time is heavily pressurised and diaries need to be prioritised according to ministerial, parliamentary and constituency business.”

The letter goes on to say that “thousands of head teachers simply do not understand what issues could be seen as more important than the ones we are raising on behalf of schools, children and families.”

Last year, more than 2,000 head teachers campaigned at Westminster to underline the seriousness of the current situation.

The Worth Less? campaign group comprises 64 local authorities and boroughs, covering thousands of schools.

“We continue to recognise that there is not a bottomless pit of money and also acknowledge that many local MPs from across the political spectrum are taking a supportive approach. We must make clear, however, that the current response from the Department for Education is inadequate. I feel fortunate that we have been so strongly supported by parents and carers as we campaign for a much improved level of funding for our schools and pupils. We urge you to continue to make representations to your local MP and to the Department for Education and wider Government to ensure that matters improve,” the letter said.

Huntingdon MP, Jonathan Djanogly, said: “I have been campaigning during all of my time as MP, against Cambridgeshire’s position at or close to the bottom of the league table regarding school funding.

“I also visit local schools every few weeks and have heard the same message, that funding is an imperative issue. I am certainly supportive of the call for fairer funding for our schools and have already taken significant steps to draw wider attention to this very important issue.”

The Department for Education provided this response to the Hunts Post: “School funding in England is at its highest ever level, rising from almost £41bn in 2017-18 to £43.5bn by 2019-20.

“In addition, standards are rising; the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers has narrowed since 2011; the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools has increased since 2010; and our primary school children have achieved their highest ever score on international reading tests.”

The school funding formula is worked out on a per pupil basis and Cambridgeshire is one of the lowest funded in the country.