Ur­gent ac­tion call over pri­maries

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - RUBY KITCHEN ED­U­CA­TION COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: [email protected]­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @Re­porterRuby

ED­U­CA­TION: Ur­gent in­vest­ment is needed at pri­mary level to main­tain stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion, MPs have warned, in the wake of find­ings over deficits.

One in seven main­tained schools in the re­gion are strug­gling fi­nan­cially, The York­shire Post re­vealed, with deficits dou­bling in the past two years.

UR­GENT IN­VEST­MENT is needed at pri­mary level to main­tain stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion, MPs have warned, in the wake of find­ings over deficits and ris­ing pres­sures.

One in seven main­tained schools in the re­gion are strug­gling fi­nan­cially, The York­shire Post re­vealed this month, with deficits dou­bling in the past two years to more than £30m.

Now, as find­ings from a snap­shot sur­vey of seven schools in just one par­lia­men­tary con­stituency de­tail a “har­row­ing” pic­ture of mount­ing pres­sure, there are calls for ac­tion to pro­tect stan­dards.

“Schools are at break­ing point,” said MP Alex So­bel, who sur­veyed head­teach­ers at pri­mary schools in his Leeds North West con­stituency.

Pri­maries sur­veyed, across a mix of set­tings from af­flu­ent ar­eas to those spe­cial­is­ing in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tional needs, had all re­ported be­ing im­pacted by cuts.

“Older, more ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers are be­com­ing dis­il­lu­sioned, and when they re­tire there’s a huge loss of knowl­edge,” said Mr So­bel. “The pro­fes­sion is at break­ing point. The teach­ers are at break­ing point. And that’s not to do with pupils, or with build­ings, that’s to with re­source, and money com­ing into schools.”

On Fri­day, anal­y­sis by the EPI re­ported that one in three sec­on­daries are now strug­gling to main­tain bud­gets, with av­er­age deficits to­talling a half a mil­lion pounds.

That fig­ure was lower in Eng­land’s pri­mary schools, with eight per cent in the red.

But in the snap­shot sur­vey of seven pri­mary schools, more than half had re­duced staffing num­bers since 2015, with the great­est im­pact be­ing on books and equip­ment with 86 per cent of schools cut­ting spend in this area.

“Our cur­ricu­lum bud­get has been cut to the bone in or­der to main­tain staffing lev­els,” one head­teacher in Leeds warned in re­sponse to the sur­vey. An­other added: “We can­not con­tinue to hit the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion’s ex­pec­ta­tions for pupil achieve­ment and take more pupils, with less staff and re­sources.”

More than half of re­spon­dents said they had made cut­backs to clean­ing and main­te­nance ser­vices, while 43 per cent re­ported cuts to school trips and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

Bud­get pres­sures are im­pact­ing at a time when many schools are see­ing a rise in pupil num­bers, claimed Mr So­bel, with the re­sult be­ing an in­crease in class sizes and smaller staffing num­bers.

“I would say these are all out­stand­ing schools, but they are com­ing to the point where they don’t have re­sources to main­tain that,” he said. “We will see a drop off in stan­dards un­less bud­gets are re-in­flated. The need for ad­di­tional per pupil fund­ing is now at a crit­i­cal point.”

A spokesper­son for the Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion said: “Whilst the core schools and high needs bud­get is ris­ing from al­most £41bn in 2017-18 to £43.5bn by 2019-20, we do recog­nise the bud­get­ing chal­lenges schools face.

“That is why the Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary has set out his de­ter­mi­na­tion to work with the sec­tor to help schools re­duce the £10bn they spend on non-staffing costs and en­sure ev­ery pound is spent as ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble to give chil­dren a great ed­u­ca­tion.”

School stan­dards are ris­ing, they added, with more chil­dren in good or out­stand­ing schools and a shrink­ing at­tain­ment gap.

The pro­fes­sion is at break­ing point. Teach­ers are at break­ing point.

Alex So­bel, Leeds North West Labour MP

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