Headteachers consider staffing levels and curriculum changes to cope with funding cuts at Doncaster schools

Doncaster schools are facing changes in their funding
Doncaster schools are facing changes in their funding

Job cuts, class sizes and changes to the curriculum are being considered by headteachers in Doncaster as they face losing thousands of pounds from their budgets as part of changes to Government funding.

Headteachers across the borough will lose an average of £406 per pupil - the equivalent of 430 teachers, teaching unions have warned.

Schools in Doncaster are facing £16m being slashed from their budgets through the introduction of the new national funding formula, being introduced from 2018 to 2019.

The Department of Education is making changes to the way it funds schools to try and close the gap between different geographical areas, with some schools expected to receive more funding.

However analysis by teachers’ unions’ published as part of the national funding formula consultation, indicates 98 per cent of schools will face cuts in per pupil funding.

Simon Murch, joint divisional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that he was aware of some South Yorkshire schools asking parents for money to fund basic equipment like pens and paper.

He warned that any education black hole would hit teaching assistants and support staff hardest.

Andy Cope, headteacher at Armthorpe Academy, said his school was in a similar situation to many.

According to unions, the school is set to lose £258,413 by 2019, which is £521 per pupil or the equivalent to seven teachers.

Mr Cope said: “We are very much in the same situation as most other schools in the country. We are having to look very hard at our staffing, we are having to look at class sizes and we are also having to look at the curriculum we provide at the school.

“There are certain subjects that are vulnerable because they are not as viable as we would want them to be.”

Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, a secondary school has suggested to parents that they may have to pay £200 a year – £33 every half term – to cover the shortfall in funding.

Headteachers warned of a ‘bleak financial future’ and felt that spending at schools had already being cut to the ‘bare minimum’.

An inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee highlights that schools across England had to find ‘efficiencies’ to save £1.1bn in 2016-17, and will have to save a further £3bn up to 2019-20.

The committee warned that schools are likely to increase teachers’ contact time and class sizes, relay more on unqualified staff and staff teaching outside their specialism.

MPs added that headteachers had told them they plan to make savings by, among other things, dropping subjects and scaling back on school trips to avoid the cost of teaching cover.

Don Valley MP, Caroline Flint, said that Doncaster schools face an eight per cent reduction in funding between 2014-15 and 2019-20.

Ms Flint, a member of the committee, said: “The Government estimates schools can save simply through better procurement, and more efficient use of teachers. This appears to me to be wishful thinking.

“It is clear schools are expecting more from teachers; and further pressure simply risks a deterioration in quality, when Doncaster’s schools are working harder to raise standards across the board.”

Kevin Courtney, the general secretary of the NUT, said: “No headteacher should be put in the position of increasing class sizes, leaving building repairs undone or cutting staff and resources simply to balance the books. Nor should any parent accept this for their child. We are one of the richest countries in the world. We can and we should be funding our schools properly.”

And Mary Bousted, from union ATL, added: “The Government must increase funding for schools. If it just reallocates the existing budget many children will lose out, with some of the most deprived hit hardest. The formula for schools’ funding must not be reformed while making real terms cuts to spending. All children deserve a fair chance to succeed and should not suffer because schools are under-resourced and teachers over-worked.”

A DfE spokesman said school funding was at its highest level on record, at more than £40bn in 2016-17.

He added: “But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated.

“We are going to end the historic postcode lottery in school funding and under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost. Significant protections have also been built into the formula so that no school will face a reduction of more than more than 1.5 per cent per pupil per year or three per cent per pupil overall.

“We recognise that schools are facing cost pressures, which is why we will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways, including improving the way they buy goods and services so they get the best possible value.”