Call for action over schools funding “crisis” in Yorkshire

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Struggling schools in Yorkshire are at crisis point, headteachers have warned, as education leaders gather in the region today to call for immediate action over “crippling” funding cuts.

The impact of real-term under-funding is being felt across the country, the National Association of Headteachers has warned, citing figures which claim 84 per cent of schools in Yorkshire and the East Midlands face cuts with a collective loss of £112m by 2020.

The Department for Education has dismissed the figures as “misleading” and based on historical data which don’t take into account increases for rising pupil numbers, but MPs in South Yorkshire have today warned that parents at some schools are being asked to fund even basic supplies such as books and stationary.

As school leaders, teachers and governors across South Yorkshire and north East Midlands gather in Sheffield today for the NAHT Education Summit, the union is calling for urgent action to invest in education funding.

“Schools are at breaking point,” said Rob Kelsall, national campaigns secretary of NAHT. “There is simply nothing left to cut when it comes to balancing the books.”

Large urban areas are seeing “significant” challenges, he said, while in rural parts of the region small schools are facing closure, with high needs funding stretched too thin. Across the country, he added, a fifth of schools which responded to a recent NAHT survey confirmed they were introducing, or considering, a shortened working week to make ends meet.

“There’s a crisis which Government has been ignoring for too long,” said Mr Kelsall. “We are calling for the Government to take stock and recognise that we need to invest, for our children’s future and for the future prospects of this nation.

Government cuts to budgets have been “unrelenting” over recent years, he said, with school leaders saying it cannot continue.

“The situation is untenable and we are calling on politicians on all sides to join with us and end this crisis right now.”

The Sheffield Education Summit, to be held today at Sheffield Hallam University, will see MP Louise Haigh join Stephen Betts, CEO of Learn Sheffield, to discuss the impact of funding on education in the city and across the region.

Sheffield has been particularly hard hit, claimed Ms Haigh, while in Barnsley it emerges a new initiative is being drawn up by councillors to gather evidence which will be put to central government.

“Parents and teachers are both rightly angry at the state of our city’s schools after years of neglect from the Government,” said Ms Haigh. “I’ve spoken to school staff who have to bring in stationery for their pupils and raise funds for basics like books.

“The message I keep hearing is that there’s nothing left to cut, and if the Government don’t listen, it’s our children who will suffer.”

The Department for Education dismissed the analysis of funding by unions, stating that it is based on historical data and doesn’t account for rising pupil numbers.

“The union’s figures are fundamentally misleading,” a spokesman said. “We are giving every local authority more money for every pupil in every school in 2018-19 and 2019-20.” Yorkshire schools, once the national funding formula is implemented in full they said, will gain the equivalent of £124m overall. “As the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed, overall schools funding is being protected at a national level in real terms.”