North Herts heads criticise education funding policy in letter to parents

Letchworth, Baldock and Hitchin secondary school heads Ian Morris of Highfield, Frances Manning of H

Letchworth, Baldock and Hitchin secondary school heads 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 The Priory School. - Credit: Archant

The headteachers of six secondary schools in Hitchin, Letchworth and Baldock have again sent a joint letter to parents, warning of a “funding crisis”.

The message – which comes just over a year after the six heads sent a similar letter warning about their financial situation – says things have got even worse.

“Despite a national campaign for increased school funding, the government has not taken the necessary steps to resource schools appropriately despite their political rhetoric,” it reads.

The heads – from Hitchin Boys’, Hitchin Girls’, The Priory, Fearnhill, Highfield and Knights Templar – say budgets have not gone up in real terms, but that costs are still soaring.

They cite developments at Letchworth’s Fearnhill School – which to save money has since last year reduced the number of teachers, had staff teach outside their specialist subjects, ended native-speaker support in foreign languages, and cut down on school trips and extracurricular activities.

The headteachers have once again urged parents to their MP, the Secretary of State for Education, the Schools Minister and the Prime Minister.

“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,” the letter concludes. “The government seems to continue to squander millions of pounds in education where it suits them, so they do have the money to fund education fairly and reasonably.”

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In response to the letter, a Department for Education spokeswoman told the Comet: “Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, 1.9 million more pupils are in good or outstanding schools than in 2010. As a result of our fairer formula, by 2020, core funding will rise to a record £43.5 billion – the highest ever, and 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000.

“No school in Hertfordshire will attract less funding through the formula. In fact, schools in the area will attract an increase in funding of 2.5 per cent – equivalent to £17.9m – when the formula is implemented in full.”

But Hitchin Labour county councillor and spokeswoman for education Judi Billing called it “nothing short of a scandal” that the government was in her view “making it harder and harder for teachers to deliver the education that they care so much about, and that our children need”.

“The Secretary of State Damian Hinds should be ashamed of himself,” she said. “I hope every North Herts parent will make it clear to him that this funding gap is completely unacceptable for our schools, our teachers and our children in 2018.”