In letters sent to 3.5 million parents yesterday, backed by over 7,000 headteachers, campaigners have warned of worsening cash shortages which are impacting on the most vulnerable.
It comes amid allegations that campaigners’ bids to meet with the Education Secretary and Minister have been refused three times because of a “busy diary” and “time pressures”.
In the letter, seen by this newspaper, headteachers under the banner of the WorthLess? campaign warn of extreme challenges despite intense lobbying.
“Schools are still not being provided with adequate funding and resource to deliver the level of provision and support that is expected and that our families and children deserve,” it reads. “We continue to recognise that there is not a ‘bottomless pit’ of money and also acknowledge that many local MPs from across the political spectrum are taking a supportive approach.
“We must make clear, however, that the current response from the Department for Education is inadequate.”
Citing findings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it warns that school budgets have faced real-term reductions of eight per cent since 2010, while class sizes rise.
Pressure has been rising over school budget calls, with 2,000 headteachers marching on Downing Street in September in a call for action over rising challenge. The Yorkshire Post, travelling with headteachers from Sheffield, was told of systems being set up to create cash streams, and parents giving donations to buy gluesticks.
Now, campaigners have said, there are reports of headteachers stepping in to cover roles such as that of school dinner ladies and bereavement support.
“Schools are really struggling. Headteachers are having to do more and more,” said Sue McMahon of Calderdale Against School Cuts as letters are distributed across the district.
“I’ve been to schools where, because they can’t afford to employ support staff, the headteachers and deputies are wiping down dinner tables.”
Vulnerable children, she adds, those with additional needs or facing crisis at home, are struggling to access support as local authorities face a funding squeeze.
“What we are seeing is mirrored across Yorkshire, across the country,” she added. “It is beginning to be heard, but only when headteachers such as these are brave enough to stand up and say what is happening.”
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, said: “Schools are working certainly with less money than they had four or five years ago.” She said that “being open and listening to what people are saying is something that is always valuable” when asked if the Education Secretary should meet headteachers.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “School funding in England is at its highest ever level, rising from almost £41bn in 2017-18 to £43.5bn by 2019-20.
“In addition, standards are rising; the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers has narrowed since 2011; the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools has increased since 2010; and our primary school children have achieved their highest ever score on international reading tests.”