Yate head says schools funding crisis will deepen

November 28 2018

A Yate headteacher is warning that the crisis in school funding will get worse because more money must be found for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Jon Bird, head of St Mary’s School in Yate, is also the chairman of the South Gloucestershire Primary Headteachers Executive. It carried out a survey of primary schools to find out about the impact of increasing costs on their budgets.  

58 heads responded, revealing that that three quarters of schools have cut teaching assistants, and half have cut teacher hours, in some cases relying on senior leaders to cover lessons. The final report found that although only a small minority of schools are currently in deficit, by 2020/21 the majority will be.

Mr Bird said: “Our intention in sharing this information with parents and schools across South Gloucestershire was to raise awareness of the severity of the situation we are facing and how this is likely to impact on South Gloucestershire children. This is a crisis in education funding, where such a lot of support for our most vulnerable children has had to be cut.”

He added: “It is now set to be compounded by Council needing to reduce the growing deficit in education costs, shown in the current consultation, with a particular focus on Special Educational Needs and Disabilities funding. If we are set to ‘transfer’ 3 million pounds to this deficit from schools funding, from April 2019, many schools will face significant challenges to meet pupils’ needs.”

The document highlights the ‘stark financial landscape’ in the area’s schools, which are amongst the most poorly funded per pupil in England. 

Many headteachers kept their comments anonymous. One said: “The greatest impact will be on the most vulnerable children; little or no TA support for early intervention.” 

South Glos Lib Dem Council Group Leader, Claire Young, said:  “I welcome the 58 head teachers’ bravery in coming forward to make their concerns public. It is an unusual step for teachers to speak out so publically. The fact that they have felt forced to do so now just goes to show how desperate the crisis in local schools has become.”

Cllr Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council and Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Employment, said: “I share our schools’ concerns about funding. Campaigning with schools, parents, pupils and our MPs, Conservatives in South Gloucestershire were successful last summer in securing just under £8million in additional funding over two years from the Government’s new funding formula – one of the largest increases in the country.”

Jon Bird believes that it’s time for a national review of SEND funding. He also hopes that parents will join the call for increased government funding for local schools.