'Please send help': Schools in Brighton and Hove in financial crisis as needs of children left unmet

Headteachers say the needs of pupils are not being met. Credit: PA

Words by ITV Meridian Journalist Harry Acton.

More than 40 primary schools in Brighton and Hove have said they are facing a financial crisis which is leaving the needs of children unmet.

The warning from headteachers comes as they face a 'significant increase' in pupils with complex needs, which combined with current funding levels has left schools 'crippled'.

In a collective letter to the Department for Education teachers warned that they will end the year with a deficit budget, despite efforts by staff to cut as much as possible, and said the government needs to review the funding model with the 'utmost urgency'.

These cuts, they say, included reducing staff, cutting curriculum costs and postponing building expenditure such as books and computer purchases.

Any further reductions would see education provision decimated, the letter added.

One headteacher wrote that in the 16 years they have worked in Brighton and Hove, this crisis is the worst they have ever experienced and warned that everything they worked hard to build up for pupils 'is being destroyed'.

Another warned they 'have nothing left to cut' and their school is unable to meet the needs of children.

"Please send help" they added.

Their words are echoed by educational leaders from around the area, who say they are having to make tough choices to stay afloat.

The cuts, leaders add, will be felt in the classroom despite efforts to protect children's education.

74% of schools surveyed say they have cut teaching assistants for the 2023-24 financial year to try and balance the books.

48% have cut teachers, whilst 51% say they will use less qualified staff.

No schools surveyed in the local area said they would survived without any form of cuts.

Headteachers added that it isn't just children who will suffer unless action is taken, with one head saying staff are demoralised and 'cannot give anymore'.

"I am knowingly making decisions based on what is cheap, not what is best for children orthe planet.

"I can no longer sleep at night."

Read the letter from headteachers in full

Open Letter to the Secretary of State for Education

Dear Secretary of State for Education,

Following the Chancellor's budget statement on Wednesday, Brighton and Hove headteachers are collectively writing to you with serious concerns regarding the current budget constraints which have placed primary schools throughout the city at a financial crisis point.

Many of our schools are ending the year with a deficit budget, largely linked to unfunded pay awards for teachers and support staff, as well as spiralling charges and the cost of covering COVID related staff absence during the Autumn Term.

Despite everyone's best efforts it is not realistic for schools to submit balanced budgets without decimating educational provision for their pupils. Schools have already made significant and difficult cuts to services, including reducing staff, cutting curriculum costs and postponing building expenditure.

The dedicated professionals in Brighton and Hove work tirelessly to provide the best possible provision for their pupils, but they will not be able to give children what they need unless the government takes immediate action to make schools financially viable.

Headteacher quotes:

‘I have been a headteacher in Brighton and Hove for 16 years. During this time, I have worked through and overcome a number of crises. However, this is by far the worst financial crisis I have experienced. Everything we have built up and developed to support pupils over the years is being destroyed due to the cuts we have no option than to make. This also coincides with a significant increase in pupils with complex need within schools.’

‘We have nothing left to cut. We are not meeting the needs of our children. We are doing everything to be a truly inclusive school. Please send help’

‘This is a time of unprecedented worry and on multiple levels. As heads we take on the responsibility to shoulder that for our school and community. However, the gaping hole in school finances has become unmanageable.

'I worry. I worry for staff, I worry for the community and most importantly I worry for our children across our city.’

As headteachers we implore the Department for Education to review school funding with the utmost urgency.

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our concerns with you in person and show you the impact of the funding crisis in our schools.

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Teachers are under immense pressure, schools say. Credit: PA

The thought is echoed by another headteacher in the city - who said their teachers are facing an 'even more impossible job by the day'.

"Each day I am being forced to make decisions that negatively impact wellbeing, educational outcomes and safety.

"I worry, I really worry. It keeps me up at night, I think about it at the weekends and I think about it during holidays. I feel on a daily basis I am having to make impossible decisions. It feels isolating.

"But then you look to other heads for reassurance and support and find that you are looking into a mirror as practically every other headteacher in the city is experiencing the same levels of worry, stress and anxiety.

"Our teachers are facing an even more impossible job by the day. Like every other head in the City of Brighton and Hove, we know our schools, we know our children, we know our families and we know our communities. We know what to do to support them and allow them to thrive. We just need to be given the finances and resources to do it.

"So much that is successful in school, society and life rests on delivering the highest quality intervention at the earliest possible opportunity. The education system has been screaming from the rooftops for years that this is not happening, it is heartbreaking that we feel further away than from this than ever before."

The Government said it is investing an extra £2 billion in education for the next two years, bringing spending to its highest level ever in real terms.

Schools will be given the flexibility to how they use the funding to support their pupils.

The Department for Education was unable to provide an official statement.