Hertfordshire schools in financial crisis ask parents to pay for basic essentials

PUBLISHED: 08:30 04 April 2019

Picture: Pexels

Picture: Pexels

Archant

Headteachers are asking parents to help buy classroom essentials as they struggle to balance their budgets, councillors have heard.

Schools might have asked parents to help raise funds for trips or play equipment for generations, but focus is now turning to the need for everyday items like paper and books.

The growing trend was highlighted at a Herts County Council debate on school funding and Labour councillor Dreda Gordon said: “I was absolutely horrified. Schools have always been involved with fundraising through their parents’ associations, but this has been for extra curricular activities.

“Now they seem to be writing to parents asking for money towards the basic essentials pupils need in order to function within the school system.

“This will result in an inequality in the experiences and opportunities in education.

“In less affluent areas where pupils and their parents are less able to make these financial contributions the children in those areas are going to suffer.”

Lib Dem councillor Mark Watkin highlighted two headteachers who said they had retired due to insufficient school funding, and a further three schools that had made up to five staff redundant.

And he pointed to the impact on the workloads of existing staff and on the support for children with special educational needs.

Executive member for schools, Councillor Terry Douris, highlighted the increase in school budgets in Herts – from £944 million in 2018/19 to £965m in 2019/20, with a further £2.862m additional high needs funding.

And he said the council and Herts for Learning are working with schools facing challenges.

But Mr Watkin said the 2.2 per cent increase in school funding was an inflationary increase that had taken no account of the increase in pupils.

He said: “What sort of education system do we have when the fact most schools are not immediately facing bankruptcy is something to be proud of, while schools are being decimated?”

Councillors agreed HCC’s leader David Williams should write to the Secretary of State for Education, expressing concern at the effect of funding reductions on schools. This includes the impact on their ability to deliver the breadth of curriculum required and support for the most vulnerable children.

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