Emotional headteacher warns of 'dire consequences' of funding crisis in England's schools

The headteacher of a school forced to cut teaching hours has told ITV News of her fears that the funding crisis in England's schools will have "dire consequences" for the nation's children.

Michelle Gay, who runs Osborne primary school in Birmingham, said shrinking budgets combined with increasing costs and demands were forcing headteachers to make cuts that were damaging standards and opportunities for pupils.

Her school has been forced to:

  • Reduce the school week to four-and-a-half days

  • Spend less on basic resources like paper

  • Ban children from playing football because there is no money to replace the dangerous playing surface

  • Reduce swimming and music lessons

Fighting back tears, she told National Editor Allegra Stratton: "Please listen to us: it's going to have dire consequences.

"Everything we do in this schools is to improve life chances of children, and they are very dear to me and that's why I do my job, and I feel the choices I'm being forced to make will have a detrimental impact on my children and that's unfair.

"I'm here to do a job for our children and for our families and I'm being restricted."

Her comments come as a joint survey by ITV News and the National Association of Head Teachers, revealed that 97% of Head Teachers who responded, said their school was facing severe financial difficulties.

In order to balance the books, many reported having to make eaching assistants redundant, reduce support for children with special education needs and increasingly rely on parents to pay for essential school equipment.

Mrs Gay would like to buy new equipment and a climbing frame for the school. Credit: ITV News
  • Results of the ITV News/NAHT Head Teacher survey

Mrs Gay admitted the decision to close her school early on Fridays was necessary to save them £35,000 a year - the equivalent of a teacher's salary.

"We would never ever have thought about it apart from the funding issue. If we hadn't have done that then we would have run a deficit budget this year."

She added: "We can make small savings; if I reduce the swimming it's £1,500 or music it's £2,000 but £3,000 is peanuts when talking about a teacher or teaching assistant."

But the decision has proved controversial with one parent describing it as "utterly disgusting".

A lack of resources has had made day-to-day life harder at the school. The building is riddled with damp and smells in winter. The heating in some of the classrooms needs repairing, while the school's play equipment is old and outdated.

The school's PE teacher was forced to stop the children playing football due to the lack of space and concrete surfaces.

"There were that many accidents of people falling over, that it just wasn't worth it. Every lunchtime, they'd go in with a grazed knee or a cut face," he told ITV News.

Another teacher said: "I would say I definitely spend over £1,000 in my own money each year, definitely this year with the Maths resources - the generosity of teachers knows no bounds."