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  1. ITV Report

'Enough is enough' - headteachers in Peterborough say budget cuts are hurting students

Class sizes have increased and vulnerable children are not getting the support they need in Peterborough because of funding cuts, a headteacher has warned.

The area's Tory city council wrote to schools to ask them to explain how increasingly tight budgets were affecting them.

The results - which will be discussed by councillors next week - paint a shocking picture which headteachers and officials have called "demoralising".

Bryan Erwin, principal at Ken Stimpson Community School, said his pupils were losing out.

He has already had to cut back on teaching assistants.

Bryan Erwin, Principal of Ken Stimpson Community School in Peterborough Credit: ITV News Anglia

"The students who need that individual, one-to-one support sadly aren't getting that.

"Class sizes are increasing. We are having to consider things like post-16 classes and when they are actually efficient - and sadly that makes the curriculum offer here slightly less rich than we would ideally want.

"Enough is enough. We need the investment, the resources, to make our young people the very best they possibly can be."

– Bryan Erwin, Principal, Ken Stimpson Community School, Peterborough

Across the city, subjects like drama have already been cut, as have therapy sessions for some of the most vulnerable pupils.

Teachers have found they have less money to spend on essential equipment and heads are teaching classes to make up for staff shortages.

Class sizes at Ken Stimpson Community School have increased Credit: ITV News Anglia

The survey of headteachers was commissioned by Jonathan Lewis, Peterborough City Council's Director of Education.

He said although schools were receiving more money from the government, there were far more pupils in need of places and that meant headteachers were grappling with real-terms cuts of around 10 per cent of their budgets.

And in Peterborough, those numbers are often worse - with the area seeing the fifth fastest population growth in the country. Mr Lewis said many schools in the city had seen their budgets drop by 20 per cent.

"It's really tough for our schools and they are desperately in need of more money.

"We have to make a difference to our children. We need to improve the quality of our education. Everybody is committed to that but to do that while there is not enough money is demoralising. Realistically it's going to impact children - and the evidence we've gathered is that that impact is there now."

– Jonathan Lewis, Director of Education, Peterborough City Council

In a statement, the Department for Education insisted funding for schools had increased by 2.3 per cent per pupil this year - amounting to an extra £12.5m when rising pupil numbers were taken into account.

But it acknowledged schools were facing challenges with their budgets.

"We have introduced a wide range of support to help schools reduce costs and get the best value from their resources – from a free-to-use vacancy service to cut the costs of recruiting teachers, to advisors who are providing expert help and support to individual schools that need it.

“The Secretary of State has made clear that, as we approach the next spending review, he will back headteachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world-class education in the years ahead.”

– Department for Education spokesperson

For Lynne Ayres, cabinet member for education at Peterborough City Council, that does not go far enough.

She said she would be demanding a meeting with ministers to discuss the findings of the survey.

The Conservative councillor said she had been impressed with the way the area's headteachers and teachers had found innovative ways to deal with an increasingly small pot of money.

But she said austerity had gone too far and she could see that funding cuts were now disadvantaging pupils and affecting teachers' welfare.