Education & Family

Heads warn parents of 'cash-starved schools'

classroom Image copyright iStock
Image caption Heads are writing to parents warning them of deepening funding problems for schools

Head teachers in England are keeping up the pressure on school funding, sending a letter warning about "cash-starved" schools to almost two million families.

As the government prepares to set out its plans in the Queen's Speech, school leaders across 17 councils are calling for urgent action over a funding gap.

Claims over school funding shortages became an election battleground and a doorstep issue with voters.

The Conservative manifesto promised an extra £1bn per year from savings.

But there have been doubts cast on the biggest slice of this extra funding - with uncertainty over whether the government will go ahead with scrapping free meals for all infants.

With no majority in the House of Commons it would be more difficult to get through legislation to scrap the free meals for infants, introduced three years ago.

The plan to remove the meals came under fire from chef and healthy-school-food campaigner, Jamie Oliver.

Cutting staff

The funding warning letter will be sent by head teachers to parents in more than 4,000 schools, saying that many schools are going to have to cut staff and subject choices.

There were warnings before the election of schools having to reduce hours or even go down to a four-day week for some pupils.

School governors backed the concerns over funding, with the first ever "strike" by governors in West Sussex.

The letter will go to parents in the following councils: Brighton, East Sussex, Northamptonshire, Surrey, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Oxfordshire, Thurrock, Cornwall, Hertfordshire, Peterborough, Wokingham, Devon, Norfolk, Suffolk, West Sussex and Dorset.

Parents will be told about analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which said that the Conservatives' plans for school spending would mean a "real-terms cut of 2.8% in per-pupil funding between 2016 and 2022".

The head teachers sending this letter are part of a regionally based campaign over school funding shortages.

Teachers' unions are also demanding greater investment in schools.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "The general election has forced the government to accept that there is a major problem with school funding that must be addressed.

"This matter cannot wait - unless the government acts now, class sizes will be higher and fewer subjects will be taught in September."

As well as the debate over the overall budget for schools, the government will have to decide whether to press ahead with a new formula for allocating funding to individual schools.

The government has said that it will deliver a fairer way of distributing school budgets.

Ministers have also defended their record on protecting school funding.

"The core schools budget has been protected in real terms since 2010 and is set to rise from £41bn in 2017-18 to over £42bn in 2019-20 with increasing pupil numbers," says a Department for Education spokeswoman.

"But we recognise that schools are facing cost pressures and will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost-effective ways."

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