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Education funding now at ‘crisis’ levels, top school warns

Camden School for Girls chair of governors: 'There is a staffing crisis in our schools and we need the govern­ment’s help in resolving it'

15 March, 2019 — By Helen Chapman

THE head of the governing body at one of Camden’s most famous schools has warned that funding and staff levels in education are now at “crisis” levels.

Janet Pope, chair of governors for Camden School for Girls, in Sandall Road, has signed an open letter aimed at convincing the government to take action – and warning that teachers were being stretched to the limit and that future performance was at stake.

“We are united in our deep concern over the threat to our ability to continue to deliver an excellent state education,” the letter said. “It is well documented that pay increases for teaching staff have fallen behind the cost of living over recent years. What is less well documented is the human impact of this situation. Our schools depend on the excellence and commitment of our teaching staff to deliver outstanding results. If we do not relieve the pressure on teachers it will be impossible to maintain this performance.”

Ms Pope was a co-signatory with four other chairs of governors at top-rated schools, including Victoria Simmons at The Grey Coat Hospital school in neighbouring Westminster. “There is a staffing crisis in our schools and we need the govern­ment’s help in resolving it,” the open letter added, before drawing attention to how schools are struggling to fill vacancies, have had to cut support staff, and drop the Duke of Edinburgh scheme – “potentially making it the preserve of students in private schools”.

Last year, Camden School for Girls – whose alumni include actors Emma Thompson and Tamsin Greig – called on parents for donations to save the Classical Greek courses at GCSE and A-level. Like nearly every school in Camden, it is in the thick of efforts to attract donations and fundraising. Comedian David Baddiel will lend a hand next week when he hosts a quiz night at the school.

As the New Journal revealed last year, other schools have tried their own lotteries or asked pupils to fill tubes of Smarties with 20p pieces.

Gerald Clark, Camden secretary of the National Education Union, said: “All schools are on a shoestring. We are in desperate times and children are losing out massively.

There is a massive problem with teacher workload. There is a recruitment and retention crisis and schools are having to go through restructuring and make redundancies.”

School funding was debated in Parliament last Monday, after a petition signed by more than 100,000 called for an increase.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said last year that, between 2009-10 and 2017-18, school spending per pupil in England fell by about 8 per cent. Schools say they are left short, but the government insists it is putting more money than ever into schools.

Mr Clark said: “The total amount of money may be more, but the per-pupil funding amount is down and costs to schools are much greater.”

Meanwhile, learning mentors in primary schools were put on the line last year with budget cuts prompting plans to axe support staff who help vulnerable children.

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.”

He added: “While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we do recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more. That’s why we have introduced a wide range of practical support to help schools and headteachers, and their local authorities make the most of every pound, ensuring resources are being used in the best possible way to improve outcomes for children.”

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