North Cumbrian headteachers: Cash cuts are having devastating impact

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Des Bird
Des Bird

Secondary school headteachers across north Cumbria have entered into the debate on funding for schools, saying the impact of cuts has already been "devastating".

The Carlisle Secondary Learning Consortium has revealed secondary schools across the area, including Wigton and Brampton, are taking different steps to cope with severe financial pressures.

Together they currently teach more than 7,200 young people between the ages of 11 and 18.

Staff reductions - redundancies, natural wastage or cuts in hours - are already set to lead to larger class sizes in some parts this year, they warn.

Des Bird, chairman of the Carlisle area consortium who is headteacher of Morton Academy, said: "Schools have taken a wide variety of cost saving measures depending on their individual circumstances.

"That has included reductions in staff that will lead to an increase in class sizes, a reduction in the breadth of the curriculum offer and reduced extra curricular opportunities in some cases."

Consortium members include leaders of Morton and Central Academies, Trinity, Caldew School in Dalston, The Nelson Thomlinson School in Wigton, and William Howard School in Brampton.

The headteachers have released a statement a week before a march is due to take place in Penrith next Saturday (MAY 6) afternoon against about the schools funding crisis.

A public meeting, organised by the National Association of Head Teachers union, is also due to take place at West Lakes School, Egremont, on Thursday evening.

The National Audit Office has calculated that schools nationally will need to find a total £3 billion in savings, equivalent to eight per cent, by 2019/2020.

In Cumbria, it is projected that schools will have to save more than an £23 million - the equivalent of £383 per pupil or 625 teacher salaries.

Carlisle's secondary school group says this comes as the county's council run secondaries have a combined deficit of more than £2.4 million - the eighth highest figure in England.

The CSLC statement adds: "Although the Government has stated that funding for schools is at record levels, this is purely due to an overall increase in pupil numbers in Britain, from 7.4 million in 2016 to a projected 7.8 million in 2020.

"In reality, there has been no increase in the amount of funding schools receive for each pupil."

They also say that employers' contributions to teachers' pensions and National Insurance payments have gone up and that they must fund the annual one per cent pay award too.

The Apprenticeship Levy, which came into effect this month, is the latest burden.

The Carlisle secondary school group statement added: "Because these increases in expenditure have been forced on schools and have not been funded by the Government, they clearly amount to what is essentially a significant budget cut.

"Secondary schools in the north west and Cumbria have already had to make considerable savings to cope with the additional employment costs highlighted above.

"The impact of the pressures has been devastating, with schools already considering cuts to arts provision and the curriculum, and even restrictions on opening hours. Many schools have been forced to ask staff to take voluntary redundancy."

The introduction of a new national funding formula will also lead to further significant cuts for some schools, they add.

The headteachers' statement continues: "When added to the additional employment costs schools are already required to fund, the impact on schools is potentially ruinous.

"Whilst we are determined not to allow these budget cuts to impact on the quality of education we provide, we have asked the Government to address these issues as a matter of urgency and properly invest in our children by funding education fairly and sufficiently."

Carlisle College and Austin Friars in Carlisle are members of the consortium too but they are not subject to the same funding system as state schools. Samuel King's School in Alston is joining the group too.

The Carlisle secondary school group works to address joint issues in an attempt to raise standards and share expertise across the area.

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