THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of being in denial over “savage” cuts that have left Yorkshire’s schools facing a half a billion pound shortfall over the last three years.
Analysis of official figures by campaign group the School Cuts Coalition showed a shortfall in funding of £5.4bn across England’s schools between 2015 and 2018.
In Yorkshire, the sum amounts to more than £481m - with 90 per cent of schools affected by the cuts.
Bradford’s schools were the worst affected, suffering £78m of cuts over the period, while Leeds saw a shortfall of £66m, and Shefield £47m. The true figure would be even higher, as North Yorkshire was not included in the total.
Leeds City Council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment, Coun Jonathan Pryor, said the city’s school were finding it increasingly difficult to cope with “dwindling budgets as funding from the Government continues to fall”.
He said: “We have seen savage cuts to SEND funding, school place funding and school condition funding. As a result schools are having to make impossible choices such as choosing between cutting classes, reducing teacher numbers or reducing spend in areas such as mental health support.
“We keep being told by the Government that funding to schools has increased but analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that per-pupil funding has fallen by 8 per cent since 2010. So are the Government misleading us, or are they in denial?”
Bradford Council’s executive member for education, employment and skills, Coun Imran Khan, said: “National austerity is hitting schools badly, leaving them faced with extremely difficult decisions of how to invest their budgets which are shrinking in real terms under this government. A child only gets one chance at their education. They should have the right to learn in properly resourced schools where teachers are empowered to do their jobs.”
Former teacher Sue McMahon, of Calderdale Against School Cuts, said the “alarming” cuts were the “worst she’d seen” in 40 years in education. Calderdale saw a £17.9m shortfall over the period.
Ms McMahon said she’d heard “heartbreaking” stories from headteachers “at the end of their tether”, with one school resorting to a “dark day” where they turned off the lights in an attempt to reduce electricity bills. Elsewhere, redundancies among support staff had left heads and deputies acting as “site managers, cooks, cleaners and pot washers”.
“The main consequence of all this, in years to come, will be that the children who had a poorer deal today will suffer as adults,” she added.
The coalition examined a range of Government funding figures to produce it “most comprehensive” yet analysis, including schools block allocations, sixth form funding and the controversial Pupil Premium.
National secretary of the GMB union, Rehana Azam, said the “time to act is now”.
She said: “Low-paid support staff are regularly dipping into their own pockets so children can have food, stationary, and even sanitary products. Schools have been pushed to breaking point.”
The National Education Union’s joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney, said: “Children and young people are being short-changed by a Government that believes education can be run on a shoestring.”
Unite national officer Jim Kennedy said: “The Government needs to stop burying its head in the sand, drop the spin and wake up to the crisis in school funding. School cuts are resulting in reduced opportunities for young people in and out of the classroom and leaving staff struggling to deliver the best education they can. Ministers need to act fast to end the school funding crisis for the sake of the generations to come.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “These figures are misleading. While we recognise that schools have faced budgeting challenges, this government has prioritised school funding, while taking difficult decisions in other areas of public spending – protecting the schools budget overall for five to 16 year olds in real terms since 2010. Standards in our schools are rising; the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers has narrowed since 2011.”