Thousands of headteachers 'warn of funding crisis in letter sent to parents'

Thousands of headteachers are warning of a "school funding crisis" in a letter reportedly sent to millions of families in England.

Friday, 8th March 2019, 1:31 pm
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 2:38 pm
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman

More than 7,000 heads have warned parents of worsening cash shortages in a joint letter to 3.5 million families, the BBC reported.

In the letter, organised by the WorthLess? campaign group, they are said to claim a request to meet Education Secretary Damian Hinds was rejected due to time pressures.

The Department for Education said school funding in England was "at its highest ever level".

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Siobhan Lowe, head of Tolworth girls' school in Surbiton, Surrey, said she has been forced to clean the school, wash the toilets, serve in the canteen, and can no longer afford a deputy headteacher.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "I think what people need to understand is, as a headteacher you're almost embarrassed that you can't support the students in your school.

"It's a terribly embarrassing thing to admit that you don't have the money, because you need to provide an education for the students.

"But why am I embarrassed? It's not my embarrassment that I don't have the money, it's due to the fact I'm not given the money to provide for the students in society."

She said Mr Hinds had refused to meet with her and other headteachers to address their concerns.

Ms Lowe added: "The parents are so supportive. I'm having to write to them on a regular basis and they are having to pay for things like printing, they are having to provide books for the students... they are writing in saying things, 'I really wish we could help Mrs Lowe but we're just about managing'."

Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman later told the programme: "Schools are working certainly with less money than they had four or five years ago. It's a really tough challenge for them adapting."

She said that "being open and listening to what people are saying is something that is always valuable" when asked if the Education Secretary should meet with headteachers.

A report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) earlier this year indicated that school funding remains a major issue in 2019.

It found that almost a third of local authority-maintained secondary schools are in deficit, with one in 10 of them carrying deficits that represent more than 10% of their income.

It comes as Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, tweeted about her son's school having to close early on Fridays.

On Tuesday she wrote: "I'd like to once again invite @theresa_may to come to my constituency, if she could come on a Friday and pick my son up from school at 1pm as his school can't afford to stay open. In fact I think I'll leave him on the steps of @10DowningStreet."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "School funding in England is at its highest ever level, rising from almost £41 billion in 2017-18 to £43.5 billion by 2019-20.

"In addition, standards are rising; the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers has narrowed since 2011; the proportion of pupils in good or outstanding schools has increased since 2010; and our primary school children have achieved their highest ever score on international reading tests."