Education funding branded a “disgrace” as one in seven Yorkshire schools in deficit

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Children are paying the price for a “woeful” lack of education funding, unions warn, as it emerges one in seven maintained schools in the region are now struggling to balance the books.

Analysis by The Yorkshire Post, looking in-depth at rising debts, has found school deficits in the region have more than doubled in the past two years, the latest reports totalling more than £30m.

The findings have sparked concern from authorities and education unions, amid warnings that urgent funding is needed to reverse a worsening trend.

“Astonishingly these are the Government’s own figures, showing that more schools are in debt than last year and that the size of those debts is growing,” said Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

“Yet still they do nothing about the woeful lack of funding given to our schools and colleges.”

Schools are taking desperate measures to counter rising deficits, she said, from making staff redundant to rising class sizes, cutting subject choices and leaving essential building repairs undone.

“Ministers must face the facts and stop pretending all is well,” she said. “Children and young people get one chance at education. It must not be ruined by this short-sighted policy of deliberate underfunding.”

Adequate funding is “desperately” needed, the executive member for learning, skills and employment at Leeds City Council, Coun Jonathan Pryor, has warned.

It is absolutely disgraceful that the Government is consistently underfunding education and it is future generations who will pay the price,” he added.

And as deficit rates differ widely across the region, from nearly one in five schools in Doncaster and North Yorkshire to one in 10 in Leeds, authorities raise the challenge to central Government amid concerns over allocations.

“The national funding formula does not address the historic and unfair postcode lottery of school funding,” said Howard Emmett, assistant director for Children and Young People’s Services for North Yorkshire County Council, which is lobbying for fairer funding.

“We feel strongly that the Department for Education needs to do more to ensure that the inequity of funding is addressed for the current and subsequent generation of pupils in North Yorkshire.

“We are particularly concerned about sparsity and rurality: a one-size-fits-all national funding formula simply does not recognise the strategic importance of small secondary schools in rural communities.”

Paul Ruane, head of learning provision at Doncaster Council, said it was working with schools to ensure budgets are managed as effectively as possible to offer the best education and outcomes.

“We are aware of the financial pressures and greater demands that our schools are facing, and we are committed to supporting them,” he added.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “School funding will rise to a record £43.5bn by 2020 – 50 per cent more in real terms per pupil than in 2000.”

Much has improved in education in recent years, they added, with a reformed curriculum, more children in good or outstanding schools, and a shrinking attainment gap.

“However, we know that we are asking schools to do more, which is why the Education Secretary has set out his determination to work with the sector to help schools reduce the £10bn they spend on non-staffing costs and ensure every pound is spent as effectively as possible.”