Is school funding now a “national emergency”?

There have been a number of stories in the media this month which have served to underline the desperate pressure of funding shortages on schools.

On BBC News Online we heard from the Headteacher in Surbiton, south London, who spoke out about having to personally clean the school, scrub toilets and serve lunch in the canteen because she is not able to fund support for her pupils.

Then we read The Times’ in-depth investigation which showed that state schools are asking parents to donate hundreds of pounds a year for salaries, to buy textbooks and equipment, and to repair leaking buildings. Grammars, comprehensives and primaries are increasingly relying on families to pay for essentials and in one case have asked for up to £1,200 per child each year. Others do not specify amounts but are receiving £100,000 a year, some using campaigns that allow donors to choose what to buy.

We also learned that 7,000 headteachers in England have written to 3.5 million parents saying that schools are facing a “funding crisis”. For growing numbers of schools this means adopting a four-and-a-half-day week just to save money.

An e-petition about school funding in England was debated by MPs, after attracting over 100,000 signatures from teachers, support staff, heads, parents and governors signed the petition. They heard how schools have had to cut back on a range of things, such as teaching and non-teaching staff, support for vulnerable pupils, teaching resources, extra-curricular activities and subject choices in secondary schools.

MPs have described the school funding situation as a “national emergency” that is forcing headteachers to make “impossible choices”. Yet Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, responded to a heated three-hour debate in Parliament’s Westminster Hall by repeating claims of record education spending levels and rising school standards, despite calls from across the political spectrum for guarantees of extra cash.

Quite how this will be resolved is up for discussion, but perhaps we will see more schools seeking new, alternative approaches to funding?

The FundStar team

13th March 2019

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