Full impact of school funding cuts revealed by head teachers
PUBLISHED: 08:20 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:20 28 March 2019
Funding cuts to schools in Saffron Walden and Newport have become "too difficult to ignore" as head teachers are having to cope with fewer staff, a reduced curriculum and donations from parents.
Caroline Derbyshire, executive head teacher of Saffron Walden County High School (SWCHS), said the school had been forced to cut subsidised music tuition, stop the late school bus service and run the curriculum on fewer teachers in response to budget cuts.
The school has also made savings by not entering students for AS exams, which saves exam fees, and increasing pupil numbers in sixth form and the lower school to bring in more money.
There have been no cuts to any subjects and no redundancies, but some staff have not been replaced as they left.
“These are just a few examples. There are many more and the pressures will not be any less in 2019-20,” Ms Derbyshire said.
Figures published through the School Cuts website, backed by a coalition of teaching unions, analysing per pupil funding in real terms from 2015 to 2020, claim Essex schools have lost out on £134.4million in funding.
SWCHS alone has lost out on £1.4million in funding since 2015, which equates to £225 per pupil.
Ms Derbyshire said: “We have been very careful at SWCHS to ensure that the cost reductions that we have made to our budget have been in areas that have not had a direct impact on the excellent quality of education offered, but this has been really hard work and something of a team effort.”
Since Ms Derbyshire joined the school, she says they have achieved a balance by running the curriculum on fewer teachers, raising more money from parents and scrutinising any non-essential expenditure.
“It has not been easy, but we have managed to cut £1million of expenditure each year since 2016 at the same time as improving the already outstanding achievement in the school,” she said. “We have not cut any subjects, we have made no redundancies, but we have not replaced some staff as they left and now have a very efficient timetable.”
Ms Derbyshire said parents are very supportive and a ‘club card’ had been created for parents to pay for after-school activities, rather than taking money out of the main budget for daytime education.
“Our parents are very supportive and generous and they help us enormously when they donate money or give up their time to support fundraising events,” Ms Derbyshire said. “I campaign about funding because you can’t make funding reductions ad infinitum. At some point, the country needs to realise that to maintain great state schools it needs to pay for them.”
In Newport, Joyce Frankland Academy has lost out on £393,715 in funding since 2015.
Principal Duncan Roberts said: “Funding shortages continue to remain Joyce Frankland Academy’s most significant challenge.
“Over the years the academy has not replaced several members of staff who have left, including specialist staff trained in very specific areas of need and resources such as computer equipment is in substantial need of updating.
“Gordon Farquhar, the previous principal, made the decision to remove music from the curriculum. I have managed to reinstate music within our curriculum across all key stages but, in order to do this, senior leaders have had to teach a greater proportion of lessons than previously which inevitably has an impact on their ability to support staff teach even better lessons, which is the core purpose of education.
“In 2019-20, the picture continues to look worrying. There is a proposed 0.22 per cent increase in funding per pupil next academic year which does not come to close to supporting a minimum two per cent increase in staff salaries and a 7.2 per cent increase in employer pension contributions.
“Thankfully, our students are incredibly motivated, our parents are immensely supportive, including our parents association which raises significant funds for the school, and our staff and governing body remain resolute and determined to do their absolute best for every student.
“I remain reluctant to make comments about such issues in the public domain, however, it has got to the point where the moral imperative to speak up on behalf of the students who are in the system, has become too difficult to ignore.”
The Department for Education (DfE) said schools in Essex will receive an increase of 3.3 per cent per pupil by 2019-20, compared to 2017-18 funding levels, amounting to an extra £48.7 million, when rising pupil numbers are taken into account.
A spokesman for DfE said: “While we recognise that schools have faced budgeting challenges, this Government has prioritised school funding, while taking difficult decisions in other areas of public spending – protecting the schools budget overall for 5-16 year olds in real terms since 2010. School funding in England is at its highest ever level and since 2017 we have given every local authority in England more money for every pupil in every school.”