Norfolk and Suffolk headteachers ‘united’ against impacts of schools funding crisis

A primary school pupil writing in a lesson. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

A primary school pupil writing in a lesson. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire - Credit: PA

School leaders across the region say they are 'united' in overcoming the hurdles brought on by the school funding crisis.

Simon Fox, co-chairman of Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders.
Picture: James Bass

Simon Fox, co-chairman of Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders. Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

On Saturday, we published the results of our survey on school budgets with headteachers in Norfolk and Suffolk.

It revealed huge strain in the classroom, with almost half, 44pc, reducing the numbers or hours of teaching assistants and more than a third forced to cut back on support for vulnerable pupils.

With rising costs, inflation, more pupils and less grant funding, schools up and down the country are facing the same fight to make ends meet.

Today, school leaders in Norfolk and Suffolk have vowed to minimise the impact on children's education.

MORE: 'I feel utterly desperate... It has reduced me to tears' - Norfolk headteacher's moving account of crisisSimon Fox, a principal and co-chairman of Norfolk Secondary Education Leaders, said: 'We aren't in a place where we have been before, where some are benefitting and others aren't.

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'This is a situation where everybody is in the same boat. In a strange way it's encouraging the profession to find best solutions in what is a really difficult time.

'We are coming together and feeling united in a way which we haven't before.'

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He said that heads were having to consider where every pound was spent.

'We have never wanted to waste money, obviously,' he said, 'but we have now had increases in our spending that we have no control of and that puts additional spending into more focus.

'We are having to be sharper and tougher with suppliers and make sure we are getting the best deal.'

The shrewd approach was echoed by a north Suffolk headteacher, who, speaking anonymously, said schools were having to be more resourceful.

MORE: 'I am using my own money to buy resources' - Norfolk and Suffolk headteachers reveal extent of funding crisis in our survey'We do think about spending now in a way which we haven't before,' they said, 'and we've never been irresponsible.

'It's become a case of saving where you can - partnership working, shared resources, offers and charities.

'One thing I would say to parents is that there is no-one more worried about this than us. No-one wants to play down what is a very stressful time for schools - but every teacher I have come across is doing everything they can to not let children be affected.'

What is the solution?

There were hopes a new national funding formula would provide respite for stretched schools.

The under-consultation government scheme would shake up the way schools are funded, and was designed to be a fairer model - particularly for areas, including Norfolk and Suffolk, which have been traditionally under-funded.

But official figures released after the first stage of the consultation showed that while 10,653 schools would receive more money, 9,045 would lose out.

Though the principal of a fairer funding formula is welcomed, earlier this month, Norfolk County Council's Schools Forum wrote to the government to say the formula still favoured urban schools over their rural counterparts.

In general election manifestos, all of the main parties have promised multi-billion pound investments to schools - though heads and unions have questioned whether they are enough, and whether they will materialise.

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