Schools are ‘forced to beg par­ents for money to stay afloat’

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -

Hun­dreds of par­ents, chil­dren and teach­ers protested in cen­tral Lon­don yes­ter­day against cuts to school fund­ing, as part of the cam­paign Fair Fund­ing for All Schools.

One par­ent said schools were be­ing forced to ask par­ents for money due to un­ac­cept­able cuts.

Jo Yurky, a mother of two and co­founder of the cam­paign, who lives in Muswell Hill, north Lon­don, said she was aware of schools that had asked par­ents if they would be will­ing to make monthly pay­ments of £20 to £50, or a one-off pay­ment of £250.

She said: “I’ve dis­cov­ered that schools near me were ask­ing par­ents for money on a di­rect debit ba­sis.”

She said the money was go­ing into a fund to “keep the school afloat”, adding: “Money was so tight that they couldn’t bal­ance their books un­less they asked par­ents to give a reg­u­lar do­na­tion on a monthly ba­sis.”

Yurky said it was vol­un­tary, but that par­tic­u­lar amounts were be­ing sug­gested. She said she was aware of an­other school that had writ­ten to par­ents sug­gest­ing “a min­i­mum amount could be £250” as a one-off pay­ment. do­ing that. Our is­sue is: why is there a prob­lem? This is not a sus­tain­able way to fund our schools. There is clearly a fi­nan­cial prob­lem in our schools. And this is not a long-term so­lu­tion to that.”

She had been shocked into ac­tion on hear­ing, dur­ing an open day visit, that her lo­cal sec­ondary school was in­creas­ing class sizes be­cause of fund­ing con­straints. She said the head teacher had said class sizes would be go­ing up “be­cause money’s tight”.

Yurky said: “Par­ents are deeply un­happy about the gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to ad­e­quately ad­dress the fund­ing cri­sis fac­ing our schools. Whilst the gov­ern­ment is busy say­ing noth­ing, dam­ag­ing cuts are be­ing made to our chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion. This is un­ac­cept­able. We will con­tinue to ap­ply pres­sure to force the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide an ur­gent rem­edy.

“We want in­creased in­vest­ment in our schools so that our young peo­ple have the skills and knowl­edge they need and so that our fu­ture econ­omy can reach its full po­ten­tial.”

A ban­ner in Par­lia­ment Square in cen­tral Lon­don, where the crowd gath­ered, car­ried the hashtag #school­sjust­wan­na­have­funds. It also in­cluded a mes­sage to the ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary, Jus­tine Green­ing: “Our schools are fac­ing a fi­nan­cial cri­sis. Please act now to en­sure that our schools have the fund­ing they need to con­tinue pro­vid­ing high qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion for our chil­dren and young peo­ple.”

Chil­dren held ban­ners with mes­sages such as: “Up with schools, down with cuts,” and: “(Theresa) May I have a fu­ture?”

The Fair Fund­ing for All Schools cam­paign is call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to im­me­di­ately re­verse cuts made to school bud­gets since 2015 and to pro­tect per­pupil fund­ing in real terms over the life­time of this par­lia­ment.

It also calls on the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide the ad­di­tional fund­ing needed to im­ple­ment a school fund­ing for­mula that in­creases fund­ing for schools in com­par­a­tively poorly funded ar­eas of Eng­land with­out cut­ting fund­ing per pupil for schools in any other part of the coun­try, so that no school loses out.

The cam­paign said anal­y­sis by the In­sti­tute for Fis­cal Stud­ies showed that un­der gov­ern­ment spend­ing plans, in­clud­ing the ad­di­tional £4bn an­nounced in the Con­ser­va­tive elec­tion man­i­festo, spend­ing per pupil was set to de­cline by a fur­ther 3% from 2017 to 2022, mak­ing a to­tal 7% re­duc­tion since 2015.

Alex Kenny, 57, who teaches English at a sec­ondary school in east Lon­don, said the school he works in has made de­ci­sions to cut back on school trips, adding that other schools were cut­ting back on peo­ple com­ing in to teach art, drama and PE. “So there are all kinds of things that en­rich the lives of young peo­ple that schools are now stop­ping,” he said.

He said he knew of one chil­dren’s writer who would have vis­ited 150 schools a year, but it is now down to 30 or 40 schools.

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