Cash-strapped schools need billions in extra funding, Government warned

Education Secretary Damian Hinds Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

More than 1,000 councillors have written to the Education Secretary to urge the Government to pump billions of extra funding into schools.

The letter to Damian Hinds calls on the Government to reverse spending cuts and ensure special needs (Send) funding is adequate.

It follows a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) produced last year which said total school spending per pupil in England has fallen by 8% in real terms between 2009–10 and 2017–18.

The letter, due to be handed in to the Department for Education (DfE) headquarters in Westminster on Tuesday, said: “Our excellent state-funded schools have lost out in billions of pounds in funding since 2015.

“The funding crisis has become so overwhelming that, according to the Education Policy Institute, almost a third of all council-run secondary schools are now in deficit, and eight in 10 academies are in deficit, according to last year’s Kreston UK report.

“Many schools are now desperately overwhelmed as more and more students are competing for fewer and fewer resources. Compounded by biting cuts to local council services, in addition to the teacher recruitment and retention crisis, the current settlement is not tenable.”

Headteachers across England have long-complained about squeezed budgets forcing them to go cap in hand to parents for extra cash and basic supplies, while some have shortened the school week.

Last month, Siobhan Lowe, head of Tolworth Girls’ School in Surbiton, south-west London, said she has been forced to clean the school, wash the toilets, serve in the canteen and can no longer afford a deputy headteacher.

Southwark councillor Maggie Browning, the National Education Union’s councillors network convener, said of the letter: “The cuts to school budgets have reached epidemic levels in England and Wales. Increasingly, tighter funds mean schools across the country are narrowing their curriculum and cutting subjects like drama and art, which is a travesty.

“Schools are also struggling to provide adequate support for students with special educational needs and some are even closing early or starting late to save money. Teachers’ workloads have become unsustainable as they are asked to do more and more with less, including larger class sizes and fuller timetables with less support.

“The Spending Review is a vital opportunity for Damian Hinds to commit to a full reversal of the cuts to school budgets and a significant increase in per pupil funding, particularly for Send.”

A DfE spokesman said: “School funding in England is at its highest ever level and, since 2017, the Government has given every local authority in England more money for every pupil in every school, while allocating the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded. In the last year we have also announced an extra £400 million of capital funding for schools from the Treasury.

“Nonetheless, we do recognise the budgeting challenges schools face. That is why the Education Secretary has been making a strong case for education spending across Government ahead of the next Spending Review.

“We are also aware of the funding pressures faced by local authorities on high needs – that’s why we recently provided the £350 million in revenue and capital funding, on top of increases we had already promised.”