One-off funding of £400m to allow schools to buy ‘little extras’ in the Chancellor’s Budget was ‘glib’, according to a West Sussex headteacher.
The Worth Less? campaign has been running for more than three years but it claims repeated requests to address a lack of funding have not been addressed by Government ministers.
West Sussex schools have gained funding in the recently revised national funding formula, but the area remains one of the worst funded per pupil in the country.
In his Autumn Budget on Monday (October 29), Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £400m of one-off funding to be shared by schools across the country, equating to £10,000 for the average primary and £500,000 for the average secondary.
He described how while more schools are rated good or outstanding ‘I recognise that school budgets often do not stretch to that extra bit of kit that would make such a difference’.
The one-off capital payment would ‘help our schools buy the little extras they need’.
But campaigners, unions and teachers have been angered by the ‘patronising’ move, with more extra money allocated in the Budget to fixing potholes.
Jules White, headteacher at Horsham’s Tanbridge House School and a leading figure of the national Worth Less? campaign, said: “Whilst any money for classroom refurbishments or computers is to be welcomed, headteachers feel that the massive issues relating to long term cuts have not been addressed by the Government.
“Permanent exclusions are soaring because schools cannot meet the complex needs of some students, whilst only three per cent of parents in England who have children with special needs say that they are satisfied with current provision.
“Amidst years of real terms cuts schools are also being asked to cover off the work of the police and social care whose resources have been stretched to breaking point.
“We now routinely deal with support for children in cases of domestic violence, family breakdown, self-harm and other mental health issues. Parents and schools ask for help and were glibly offered a few thousand pounds for some ‘little extras’. This does not seem to be a response which is either proportionate or in keeping with the national mood.”
He described how every headteacher had made it clear that schools have been ‘bled dry’ in recent years, while appeals for help with their budgets especially support for children with special needs and the most disadvantaged pupils ‘falling on deaf ears’.
Mr White added: “For several years schools have done everything possible to cut costs and maintain standards.
“Ministers have made a cynical calculation to keep taking advantage of our relentlessly reasonable approach and desire to do what’s right.
“They are entirely underestimating the depth of feeling and anger that dedicated headteachers and the wider profession feels. We are sick of our schools and families being treated with contempt.
“Parents won’t forgive what’s happening to their children’s schools today and ‘jam tomorrow’ won’t wash.”