Yorkshire schools plea ahead of Westminster debate

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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A generation of young people are being deprived of the education they deserve, school leaders have warned, as an impassioned plea was issued to parents ahead of a schools funding debate at Westminster today.

Nearly 200 schools in North Yorkshire have sent letters to parents, reaching more than 60,000 homes, warning of funding shortfalls and “difficult choices” they face.

It comes ahead of a debate to be held in Parliament today, after a petition set up by headteachers in Gateshead secured more than the required 100,000 signatures to force a hearing.

“Children only get one chance at their education and the current funding crisis means this generation of young people in North Yorkshire are not getting the education they deserve,” warned Chris Knowles, headteacher at Newby and Scalby Primary School in Scarborough and North Yorkshire branch secretary for the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT).

“As school leaders, we have a duty to inform parents of what is happening in our schools and we ask them to join with us in calling on the Government to give us the funding we and their children so desperately need.”

The campaign has seen letters sent out to more than a million parents and carers across the country.

“As a school, we feel that it is our duty to provide parents with a fair and accurate picture of the real state of school funding in our area,” it reads, citing analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found school funding per pupil has fallen eight per cent in real terms since 2010.

The union, using data compiled under its School Cuts campaign, claims the average secondary school in the area faces a cut of £84,260, and primaries £15,178.

North Yorkshire County Council, as education authority, has long argued its schools face a disparity under national funding formula.

“We welcome the debate in Parliament as we have long called on the Government to recognise that there is insufficient funding in North Yorkshire for schools funding and special educational needs and disabilities funding,” said Coun Patrick Mulligan, executive member for schools. “School reserves are reducing and this reflects the reality of pressure on public sector funding.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said the Government has acknowledged that budgets are under pressure, with demands costing more. They cannot have failed to notice a steady procession of school leaders, governors and parents campaigning on the issue, he adds.

“It is therefore utterly inexplicable that they have failed to act,” he said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said North Yorkshire schools will receive an increase in funding of 3.7 per cent per pupil in the next academic year, equivalent to £14.6m in total.

“Since 2017, we have given every local authority more money for every pupil in every school and made funding fairer across the country,” they said. “While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we do recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more. That’s why we’re supporting schools and head teachers, and their local authorities, to make the most of every pound.”