IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Islington schools cash crisis: ‘This generation is on frontline’

Headteacher warns that cuts are hitting pupils and families ‘in an unprecedented way’

22 March, 2019 — By Emily Finch and Helen Chapman

St Mary Magdalene Academy, in Holloway

HEADTEACHERS have warned that the long-term effect of cuts is hitting children and families “in an unprecedented way” a year after the government introduced a new funding scheme for schools.

Cassie Moss, headteacher of Yerbury Primary School in Upper Holloway, said: “We have had to be innovative, think creatively and work very hard together to plug the gaps, galvanise the community, and prepare for the impact of further cuts and increased costs ahead of each financial year.”

She said schools were suffering under the new calculations for allocating funding, but also faced extra demands on annual budgets, such “as increased pension and National Insurance contributions, sharp energy increases, unfunded pay awards, apprenticeship levies, to name just a few”.

She said it was her role as headteacher to communicate “the real impact of school cuts”, adding: “This generation of children is on the frontline. The long-term effects of school cuts and cuts to other services are hitting this generation of children and families in an unprecedented way.

“Their time is now. We cannot afford to let this generation’s future slip through our hands through a simple lack of engagement by our government to adequately fund schools.”

Yerbury was in a “fortunate position” because of an active parent-teacher association, which has “taken an increased role in fundraising in order to maintain the outstanding and rich provision we give our children”.

Guilene Marco, of Fair Funding For All Schools, who has children at St Mary Magdalene

Ms Moss did not want to reveal the exact amount raised by the PTA, but said it had helped pay for specialist music and dance teachers’ salaries, as well as buying books, laptops and maths resources, and updating the children’s toilet.

She said: “The government is placing increased demands on schools to deliver against new Ofsted requirements, while simultaneously reducing the money they have to do so.”

There are also warnings at secondary school level. Vicky Linsley, headteacher of St Mary Magdalene Academy, in Holloway, wrote to parents this month warning that school funding was now “extremely challenging”.

She said the school did not have enough funding to deliver the level of provision and support expected for students.

The letter signed by Ms Linsley was also sent by 7,000 headteachers nationwide as part of a campaign against cuts by lobbying group Worth Less? It stated: “Increasingly, schools are being asked to support children’s emotional health and wellbeing. Frequently, we do not have adequate resource to meet a growing need.”

Guilene Marco, from the Fair Funding For All Schools campaign group in Islington, said: “We’ve heard of schools being asked for direct debit transfers. Teaching assistants are being cut as is SEN [special educational needs] support. Art, music, and sports clubs are being cut.

“A lot of schools are relying on fundraising income from their parent-teacher association.” She has three children at St Mary Magdalene Academy.

Ken Muller, from Islington National Education Union, said: “In Islington, schools are due to lose £6.4million – or £309 per pupil – from 2015 to 2020.

“Teaching assistant posts are being lost as a result of the cuts, making it harder for schools to support students, especially those with special educational needs.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have protected the core schools budget overall in real terms since 2010, and put an additional £1.3billion into core schools funding across 2018-19 and 2019-20, over and above plans set out at the last spending review.”

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