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Primary schools warn they can no longer pay for replacements when staff leave

Schools surviving on 'goodwill' due to slashed budgets

01 June, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

PRIMARY schools say that budget cuts mean they are struggling to cover costs when carrying out building repairs and fixing broken computers. Some are now reporting that, due to the financial squeeze, they will be unable to hire new staff when people leave.

John Hayes, headteacher at Gospel Oak Primary School in Mansfield Road, said: “We have effectively put a stop on all essential recruitment for any vacancies that have arisen. Everyone who has moved on, we have had to think very carefully of a way of not replacing them. When somebody goes we have to think: What can people stop doing and what can people take on? It means we have fewer teaching assistants.”

He added: “The school is functioning in very much the same way. Staff are taking on more duties and are working harder. I am endlessly grateful to all of them. The fabulous hard work of our staff means standards for kids have not become detrimentally affected. But that’s because staff are working themselves into the ground. Sometimes I think parents may be thinking ‘the school is open and my child is learning so what is the problem?’ But the problem is that unless the money is coming in we can’t continue as we are.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has reported that, between 2009-10 and 2017-18, school spending per pupil in England fell by about eight per cent. The government insists it is putting in more money than ever.

Jacqueline Phelan, headteacher at Carlton Primary in Kentish Town, said: “When staff leave we can’t replace them because we can’t afford it. Early on last year a member of our admin team left and we couldn’t replace her. We looked at the work of the admin team and redistributed it – answering telephones, working with parents. “It is not fair and not their fault that something has been cut. But from their goodwill they keep going and they are proud of our amazing school.”

Both schools have had to reduce spending on replacement equipment such as interactive whiteboards. “The question is: how can we afford to get it fixed?” said Ms Phelan, “We have to think when something is broken, how can we replace it? Victorian schools have a lot of charm but also bring a lot of challenges.”

Camden’s education chief Angela Mason said: “While public schools continue to enjoy big tax breaks, state schools are having to scrabble for the basics. We have been funding our additional provision for special educational needs from reserves which will soon run out.”

Gerald Clark from Camden National Education Union, said: “It beggars belief that the government can continue to ignore the levels of school funding, despite all the evidence to the contrary and despite the sums they have allocated to other political projects.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “While there is more money going into schools than ever before, we know schools face budgeting challenges, which is why we have introduced a wide range of support to help reduce costs and get the best value from resources – from a free-to-use vacancy service, to cut the costs of recruiting teachers, to advisers who provide expert help and support to schools that need it.”

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