1. ITV Report

Headteacher of cash-strapped school asks parents to help plug gap of government funding cuts

A headteacher has written to parents asking for money to plug the gap of government cuts

Two Northumberland schools have written to parents asking for a financial contribution to make up for a shortfall in government funding.

Queen Elizabeth High School, in Hexham, and Hexham Middle School are both facing budget cuts, which is a cause for concern for teachers and Trustees at the schools.

Executive headteacher Graeme Atkins sent a letter to parents asking them for financial help.

I am writing to ask for your support. As you may be aware from recent media coverage, schools up and down the country are becoming increasingly concerned about an emerging funding crisis.

...There is fundamentally, not enough funding in the national pot to meet the school's needs and the situation is set to become much worse.

The Trustees and I are extremely worried about the situation and its implications for our children.

– Executive Headteacher, Graeme Atkins
Headteacher Graeme Atkins warns cuts could lead to larger class sizes Credit: PA

The headteacher warned that funding cuts could lead to larger class sizes, extra‐curricular provision being reduced and staff potentially leaving.

The letter went on to explain ways in which parents can help, including writing to their MP Guy Opperman.

The letter sent to parents asking for help Credit: ITV Tyne Tees
Credit: ITV News

"To help relieve the pressure, we are now taking the unprecedented step of asking parents for a voluntary contribution towards our schools' costs. We do not undertake this lightly. However, faced with the prospect of making cuts that will affect our students, we believe it would be irresponsible not to ask for your help."

The "preferred option" is for parents to set up a monthly standing order.

Mr Atkins' letter said: "We appreciate that some families are hard pressed and will not be able to make a financial contribution."

Jo Davies is a parent with children at Hexham Middle School.

She told ITV News Tyne Tees that she's worried that financial contributions from parents to their children's schools will become the norm.

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Parents have expressed everything from disbelief to utter horror. Most of us feel that if we start to support the school financially that it will become the norm, and give the government the idea they can cut funding even further."

– Jo Davies, parent

According to a report by the Education Policy Institute, (EPI), the average secondary school in England is facing losses of almost £300,000, while primaries will lose out on tens of thousands of pounds.

It warns that growing financial pressures will mean that all state schools across the country are likely to see real terms cuts to per pupil funding in the next few years, with half of primaries and secondaries facing reductions of between 6% and 11% by 2019/20.

Government proposals to introduce a new national funding formula would see schools get basic funding per pupil and additional money based on factors such as deprivation, and low prior attainment of pupils.

Ministers have said the new system will be fairer for schools and claimed Northumberland would get more.

The Department of Education insists a new funding formula is fair Credit: PA

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “The government has protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40bn in 2016-17. But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated. We are going to end the historic postcode lottery in school funding and under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost.

“In Northumberland, funding would go up by 1.2 per cent, over £2m, if the proposed new funding formula was implemented.

“We are consulting on the factors that will make up the formula and we know that it is important that we get this right so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact. The consultation will run until 22 March 2017, and we are keen to hear from as many schools, governors, local authorities and parents as possible.”