Cuts on timetable at cash-starved Morecambe school

A recent march and rally in Lancaster opposed real term cuts to school budgets.
A recent march and rally in Lancaster opposed real term cuts to school budgets.
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School governors across Lancaster and Morecambe have accused the government of lying about a funding crisis, as one school revealed the true cost of cuts to its budget.

An open letter backed by Lancashire governors describes “a systemic starvation of funds to the education sector”.

Victoria Bould, headteacher at Poulton-le-Sands Primary School in Morecambe, has laid bare the effect cuts are having on her school in a letter to parents, resulting in an £11,662 shortfall in cash for curriculum resources, a 38 hour a week reduction in classroom teaching assistants, and a 16 hour a week reduction in Special Educational Needs (SEN) provision in 2017/18.

Mrs Bould stressed that no redundancies would be made, and that she was trying extremely hard to minimise the impact on children’s education.

She said the school’s budget was five per cent less than last year, and due to rising costs, was nine per cent short - £468 per child - of the amount needed to run the school as it is.

The Department for Education said that spending on schools is at its highest level on record, with a £40bn annual budget.

But once rising pupil numbers, inflation and running costs are factored in, the National Audit Office has calculated that schools face a £3bn shortfall by 2020.

David Morris, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale, who has previously called school funding cuts “a myth”, told the Guardian that he wasn’t able to comment on the figures as they hadn’t been verified, but said he was extremely disappointed that a head teacher and the governing body had decided to release such a “politically motivated letter” during a general election period.

He added that school funding for the next financial year would not be confirmed until after the general election.

Vikki Singleton, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Morecambe and Lunesdale said the cuts were “unforgivable”, while Lib Dem hopeful Matt Severn said that if the Conservative Party wins on June 8, “it will only get worse”.

Mrs Singleton said: “As a trained teacher and former school governor, I am appalled at the financial situation forced upon our local schools.

“In Morecambe, we have so many families struggling and this can impact on our children’s ability to engage with education. We know that extra support is vital for our children’s progression, to help close the gap on attainment.

“With loss of funding, support and staff, that gap will widen. These government cuts are unforgivable, taking money away from our vital local schools and communities and awarding it to Conservative initiative ‘Free schools’ instead.”

Mr Severn said: “It’s heartbreaking to see talented staff, committed governors and good schools suffer like this.

“If Theresa May wins a big majority next month then it will only get worse.

“The Lib Dems would reverse all the education cuts and ensure that all schools are properly funded so that every teacher can get back to teaching and every child can achieve their best.”

A march and rally is due to take place in Lancaster this Saturday, May 13, starting from Dalton Square at 12pm.

Mrs Bould said the situation is “incredibly sad”, but the school would look for other sources of funding.

The school will no longer be able to subsidise day trips, but Mrs Bould said no one child would be excluded if their parents can’t afford to pay, and that either all children would go, or none would.

The open letter from governors reads: “Even though government repeatedly claims that funding has never been higher, the above fact is irrefutable, our shared experiences give lie to such blithe assurances.

“As governors we are currently implementing budgets that are reducing the number of teachers and teaching assistants working alongside vulnerable children.

“Training has been cut, less resources have been purchased and buildings are falling into disrepair.

“Stress levels for heads and school leaders who are being forced to manage this situation are becoming intolerable.

“This problem is not about schools being run inefficiently: schools have been reducing spending for several years and there is nothing left to trim.

“The problem is too wide spread to be about a school managing its budget ineffectively, this must be addressed as a systemic starvation of funds to the education sector.”