‘We are reaching crisis point’ – Heads of Stevenage, Letchworth, Hitchin and Baldock schools appeal for parents to protest against education funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 11:53 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:02 24 April 2017

The heads of the Letchworth, Baldock and Hitchin secondary schools. Clockwise from top left: Ian Morris of Highfield, Frances Manning of Hitchin Girls', Tim Litchfield of Knights Templar, Liz Ellis of Fearnhill, Martin Brown of Hitchin Boys', and Geraint Edwards of The Priory School.

The heads of the Letchworth, Baldock and Hitchin secondary schools. Clockwise from top left: Ian Morris of Highfield, Frances Manning of Hitchin Girls', Tim Litchfield of Knights Templar, Liz Ellis of Fearnhill, Martin Brown of Hitchin Boys', and Geraint Edwards of The Priory School.

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The headteachers of 12 North Herts and Stevenage secondary schools have together called for parents to protest as their funding nears ‘crisis point’.

The Headteachers of the six Stevenage secondary schools, clockwise from top left, Beth Honnor of Marriotts School, Tony Fitzpatrick of Barnwell School, Mark Lewis of Thomas Alleyne Academy, Clive Matthew of John Henry Newman, Mark Allchorn of Barclay School, and Martyn Henson of The Nobel School. The Headteachers of the six Stevenage secondary schools, clockwise from top left, Beth Honnor of Marriotts School, Tony Fitzpatrick of Barnwell School, Mark Lewis of Thomas Alleyne Academy, Clive Matthew of John Henry Newman, Mark Allchorn of Barclay School, and Martyn Henson of The Nobel School.

The heads of the schools in Letchworth, Baldock and Hitchin sent a joint letter out on the first day following the Easter break – with a similar appeal from Stevenage’s schools going out before the holidays.

The appeals come after the government announced proposals for a single national funding formula starting this September, which critics say could result in a seven-per-cent cut in funding per pupil, larger classes and reduced opportunities for children.

The heads claim rising costs have already pushed the amount available per pupil down by as much as 45 per cent since 2012, with schools having to spend more on teachers’ salaries, pensions, National Insurance payments and new resources to meet new GCSE and A-level syllabuses.

But the Department for Education says criticism has been fuelled by figures circulated by the NUT teachers’ union which it calls ‘fundamentally misleading’, and accused the NUT of blurring separate debates on the amount and distribution of funding.

The heads’ letter warns: “We are reaching crisis point and the very real danger for all of us is that we are fast approaching the point where our outgoings will exceed our income.

“The impact this is having for your children is significant and we are facing a vastly reduced capacity to ensure that all children’s needs are met. It is only because of the utter dedication and commitment of the staff in our schools, who give up their own precious and limited time, that you may not have yet noticed a deterioration in what we are able to provide.”

Parents were urged to write to their MP, the secretary of state for education, the minister for schools and the Prime Minister.

The letter concludes: “We need your help because doing nothing and changing nothing will mean a vastly reduced education system for all children, whatever their background or abilities.”

Cuts that schools have had to make in North Herts amid several years of budget reductions have included increasing class sizes, moving teachers out of their specialist subject and reducing support for children who have special needs or who are disadvantaged or vulnerable.

The appeal before the holidays in Stvenage was signed by Beth Honnor of Marriotts School, Tony Fitzpatrick of Barnwell, Mark Lewis of Thomas Alleyne Academy, Clive Matthew of John Henry Newman, Mark Allchorn of Barclay and Martyn Henson of The Nobel School.

The letter sent this week bore the signatures of Tim Litchfield, head of Baldock’s Knights Templar School, Liz Ellis of Fearnhill and Ian Morris of Highfield in Letchworth, and Martin Brown, Frances Manning and Geraint Edwards – heads of Hitchin Boys’, Hitchin Girls’ and The Priory School respectively.

A Department for Education spokesman told the Comet: “These figures ignore the fact that funding is driven by pupil numbers and, as pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.

“We have protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010, with school funding at its highest level on record at more than £40 billion in 2016/17 – and that is set to rise, as pupil numbers rise over the next two years, to £42 billion by 2019/20.

“These protections, and the wider investment in the school system, mean that spending per pupil will be over 50 per cent higher in real terms in 2020 than it was in 2000, as set out by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.

“We do recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, and we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in the most cost effective ways, so that every pound of the investment we make in education has the greatest impact – and every child has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them.”

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