The secondary school funding crisis is reaching ‘breaking point’ as headteachers struggle to cope under tighter budget constraints.
After discussing the situation with members of Peak 11 Federation - the 11 secondary schools in the High Peak and Derbyshire Dales - High Peak MP Ruth George took part in a debate on education in Parliament.
She said: “I recently met secondary headteachers in my constituency who told me that they were almost at breaking point as a result of cut after cut after cut. When will the government fund all our schools properly, for the sake of all our children?”
Damian Hinds, Secretary of State for Education, replied: “Funding for our schools is at the highest level that it has ever been, and we have committed ourselves to protecting per-pupil real-terms funding for the system as a whole over the next couple of years.
“I recognise that there have been cost pressures on schools, and I am committed to continuing to work with them to do what we can to bear down on those costs.”
Derbyshire, Mrs George explained, was always one of the most underfunded counties in the country and austerity cuts being made by the government and again by the county council were having a knock-on effect on schools in the area which are suffering.
Speaking after the debate, she said: “The National Funding Formula was a promise to fix all ills, but it isn’t.”
The National Funding Formula is the method which the government is proposing to use to decide how much money should be given to English state schools each year.
It aims to remove discrepancies in funding that have arisen from budgets being allocated by local authorities, rather than central government, and ensure that all school budgets are set using the same criteria. The Department of Education believes this will direct resources where they are most needed.
Mrs George said: “While the government has brought schools back from the absolute abyss, High Peak schools are still due for a further £2m of cuts. The headteachers told me after eight years of cuts, and multiple rounds of redundancies, they are very nearly at breaking point.
“This is not to say standards of education are slipping at schools just choices are having to be made.”
She explained how schools were having to make difficult decisions about subjects, and that if they are outside of the GCSE core it is becoming harder and harder to find the funds for arts and drama classes as well as for pastoral services - one of the key issues raised by the Peak 11.
She said: “With more young people suffering from mental health issues, which is impacting on their studies now more than ever, we need welfare officers but there isn’t the resources and teachers are under more and more pressure with Ofsted, exams and grading, and something needs to be done.”
Mrs George added: “I have two boys in primary school and a daughter who is a teacher so I understand on a personal level what schools are up against.
“I’m not saying its going to be an easy win and an easy fix but this matter needed to be brought back on to the political agenda once again and I hope going forward there can be more help for our schools.”