Yorkshire hit by cuts in the classroom

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Retaining the best talent in education is the greatest challenge facing the North of England, political leaders have warned, as unions raise fears over “critical” teacher shortages.

More than 850 staff jobs were lost in Yorkshire’s schools last year, analysis by The Yorkshire Post has revealed, including 285 teaching posts and 95 teaching assistants at a time when pupil numbers are rapidly rising.

Schools are facing “unprecedented” pressures alongside rising class sizes and teacher-to-pupil ratios, unions warn, putting education standards at risk for the region’s young people.

And as the Northern Powerhouse Partnership repeats calls for a northern centre of excellence to transform failing schools, focusing on retention and development, director Henri Murison says it is disappointing that funding has yet to be allocated to meet the challenge.

“The staffing crisis in our schools is most acute in those areas with economic challenges in families and also where teachers do not have confidence the school is going in the right direction, or they will be supported by effective leaders,” he said. “We need to see more investment in teachers’ learning and development to give them the best possible tools to make them effective, because a number of Yorkshire’s best council-run schools and multi-academy trusts serving similarly economically challenged areas are getting it right, and we need to make sure all do the same, including with enhanced pupil premium funding where long-term disadvantage is most concentrated.”

The analysis by The Yorkshire Post, based on school census data collected by the Department for Education (DfE), revealed that the region’s pupil-teacher ratio is second-highest in the country, with each Yorkshire teacher responsible for, on average, three more pupils than those in Kensington.

There is a steep rise in the number of children in the region’s schools – 5,000 more than a year ago – and yet nationwide, 15 per cent of teachers are leaving after just a year in industry.

The DfE, stressing that teacher levels remain high, said school funding is at its highest ever level, rising to £43.5bn by 2010.

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Schools are facing unprecedented pressures caused by critical shortages in funding and teachers. It is to the great credit of Yorkshire’s schools, and schools across the country, that they are doing a very good job in very difficult circumstances.

“But the Government is putting educational standards at risk through its failure to provide sufficient funding and its sluggish response to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis. Schools and young people 
deserve better.”