‘It’s simply disgraceful’ – Parents back North Herts and Stevenage school heads on education funding
PUBLISHED: 08:26 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:01 24 April 2017
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Parents have swung behind the call from North Herts and Stevenage school heads to protest as their funding situation approaches ‘crisis point’.
The headteachers of the six secondary schools in Letchworth, Baldock and Hitchin sent the joint letter to parents this week, with their six Stevenage counterparts making a similar appeal before Easter in response to the government’s proposed single national funding formula – set to start this September.
Opponents say this could result in a seven-per-cent cut in funding per pupil, larger classes and reduced opportunities for children, but the Department for Education says criticism has been fuelled by figures circulated by the NUT teachers’ union which it calls ‘fundamentally misleading’.
The heads have urged parents to write to their MP, the secretary of state for education, the minister for schools and the Prime Minister.
Rachel Chalkley, whose daughter goes to Knights Templar, told the Comet that the situation was ‘simply not acceptable’.
She said: “As a trained primary school teacher myself, I am only too aware of the crisis our schools are facing. Teachers and children are at an all-time low as far as morale and motivation are concerned.
“I came out of full-time teaching myself last year because it simply was not an option anymore for me to do the job to the best of my ability and retain my health, both mental and physical.
“The job is difficult beyond belief without having the added pressure of budget cuts. Our children are our future. The rise in mental health issues in our young and in our education professionals must surely be related to the state the education system is in.”
Claire Winchester – who lives in Letchworth and has children at Highfield – took a similar stance in a letter to North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald, which she shared with the Comet.
She said: “I have never seen a direct plea from headteachers to the parent body before, and it is clear that schools are suffering unprecedented strain. This is simply disgraceful.
“It seems to me that the Conservative Party have no interest in supporting education, teachers or students. Presumably, anyone not rich or well-connected enough to find an internship or private tutor for their child is beneath your notice. What catastrophic short-sightedness.
“Instead of harping on about grammar and free schools, why on earth aren’t the Conservatives providing adequate funding for the schools we already have?”
Labour county council candidate for Letchworth North Doug Swanney has also backed the schools, expressing a fear that they might eventually have no choice but to ask parents for financial contributions.
He said: “I don’t think the Conservative-led council is willing to tell Westminster that their cuts are going too far – so we need to tell them loud and clear.”
David Williams, who is responsible for education at the county council, said in response: “I categorically challenge that. I personally raised concerns about this with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and through the County Councils Network – which includes all county councils – we have raised concerns about schools’ funding with the Secretary of State for Education.”
Mr Williams said the county council recognised funding challenges, with its own analysis indicating a real-term funding cut of 8.4 per cent during the current parliament, but that funding by pupil was protected.
He added that he did not anticipate Hertfordshire going down the route of asking parents to provide funds.