Stortford's secondary heads unite to warn parents of classroom funding crisis
Headteachers in Bishop’s Stortford have added their voices to a national outcry over education funding by the Conservative Government.
Across England, it is claimed, schools face a shortfall of £5.7 billion. Heads of the six state secondaries in Stortford and Sawbridgeworth have written to parents and carers, setting out their concerns and warning of the consequences of continued underfunding.
They want families to lobby Stortford MP Mark Prisk and the Government – Prime Minister Theresa May, Education Secretary Damian Hinds and schools minister Nick Gibb – about a boost to their budgets.
The Bishop’s Stortford and Sawbridgeworth Heads Consortium wrote: “Our collective concern on this matter is very real and we are writing to ask for your help.
“You may well have read that funding in education is at record levels, though this is simply because there are more children in the education system than ever before. The reality is schools have been facing real-terms budget reductions for several years because of the so-called ‘flat cash settlement’ we have received.”
The letter – signed by Cathy Tooze at Herts and Essex High School, Dale Reeve at The Bishop’s Stortford High School, Richard Markham at Hockerill Anglo-European College, Andrew Celano at St Mary’s Catholic School, Chris Ingate at Birchwood High School and Malcolm White at Leventhorpe in Sawbridgeworth – warns of a classroom crisis.
The heads say there has been a 10% cut in funding for 11- to 16-year-old students in real terms and a 20% cut in sixth-form support while "significant increases" in teaching staff salary costs and National Insurance and pension contributions, along with changes to the curriculum, have added to pressures.
They warn: “We have already been forced to make cuts in varying ways over recent years and, unless we see a major change in the levels of funding, will inevitably have to make further cuts.”
- bigger class sizes as a result of axing teachers
- teachers teaching outside of their specialisms
- cutting the number of GCSE, IB and A Level courses on offer
- cutting unfunded extra-curricular activities
- reducing admin teams, teacher training, pastoral care and the number of support staff working with children with special educational needs or disabilities; and
- removing counselling support for children with mental health issues.
The heads warn: “The purpose of this letter is to help you understand that, without a major change, we will have a much-reduced capacity to meet the needs of your children in the future, despite our great desire to do so.
“We have held off from writing to parents until now but are finding it increasingly unrealistic to maintain the high quality of provision for your children we feel currently exists.
"We are blessed to have a great range of highly successful schools in the area, but if nothing is done to reverse this funding crisis immediately, we will almost certainly not be able to operate at the same level in the future.”
More by this authorSinead Corr