Campaigners and parents have expressed fresh concerns about school funding as it is revealed that over 200 schools in the ELL area were in deficit in 2015/16.
There were 210 schools across Croydon, Lewisham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets in deficit in the penultimate academic year, Eastlondonlines can reveal.
Nationally a total of 9,438 schools, or one in three, were in the red, according to figures provided by the Department fro Education in response to a written parliamentary question.
Croydon and Hackney had 65 and 57 schools reporting a budget deficit – the second and third highest number of any London borough, while Tower Hamlets (48) and Lewisham (40) still registered a considerable number.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Education Secretary Layla Moran, who tabled the question, described the findings as “shocking”, and criticised Department for Education for playing down the issue.
These latest figures come amid growing concerns about stretched school budgets and fears about further cuts on the horizon because of a controversial new funding formula.
Education Secretary Justine Greening recently announced an extra £2.6 billion for schools in England over the next two years, which she described as a “historic reform”.
However, a coalition of six of teachers’ unions described the move as “nowhere near enough” to offset the £2.8 reduction since 2015, with some saying a further £2 billion was required to meet the shortfall by 2020.
The unions still estimate that almost 90% of schools are still facing real-terms budget cuts per pupil between 2015/16 and 2019/20.
The website School Cuts, which has been updated to reflect the latest cash injection, still estimates £50 million worth of cuts in the four ELL boroughs by 2020.
Tower Hamlets will be the worst affected area in England, as it will lose a projected £19 million by 2020, according to estimates by the National Education Union (NEU).
This means that schools could lose the equivalent of £512 per pupil or enough to pay the salaries of 350 teachers’ salaries.
Reacting to the 48 schools in the borough already recording a budget deficit, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Poplar & Limehouse, Elaine Bagshaw, said: “It’s unbelievable that this Tory Government think it’s ok to leave schools without enough money and to get parents to foot the bill instead.
“Children and young people deserve the best start in life, particularly in an area like Tower Hamlets where nearly half of our children grow up in poverty,” she said.
“The government must urgently address these funding pressures that are impacting on children’s education and leaving schools struggling to make ends meet.”
Although Lewisham looks set to experience cuts of £251 per pupil, half of those in Tower Hamlets, there were still 40 schools in deficit in 2015/16 and parents are seeing the everyday effects.
Catriona Scott, a Lewisham parent and Fair Funding for All Schools campaigner, told Eastlondonlines: “Parents are being asked for donations of basic items and, in some cases, money to help schools cover essential costs.
“Many schools have already had to cut staff. It’s heart-breaking,” she said.
“Schools in Lewisham have already been hit hard by the government’s education budget cuts, so the further cuts which are planned will only make it harder for schools across the Borough.”
She spoke of parents having to donate basic equipment like stationary to their children’s classes, as well as some schools asking for annual donations.
“I know of a school Nursery where the budget for basic provisions like pens, paint and paper has fallen from £1,500 a year to £200. The teachers have to ask parents and local businesses for donations,” she said.
She said the “heavy burden on our hard working teachers” was increasing as teaching assistants are being shared between classes. There are also schools having to cut after school clubs, and primary schools being forced to closing their nurseries altogether.
A recent survey by the NEU and the Times Educational Supplement revealed that staff at nearly all schools (94%) had paid for classroom equipment out of their own pocket in the last year.
Croydon had the most schools in deficit, a total of 65, including 29 academies, but looks set to be one of the London boroughs that suffers the least from future budget cuts.
According to the NEU projections, Croydon’s schools will see a £9 million reduction in their spending power by 2020, which equates to £186 per pupil.
Only Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Murton will see a smaller per pupil cut in the capital.
However, Labour MP Sarah Jones, who unseated Gavin Barwell in Croydon Central in this year’s general election, has been vocal in calling for more funding for schools.
Shortly after being elected, she wrote letters to Justine Greening to “push the Education Secretary hard to look again at the unfair National Funding Formula”.
Jones has also been lobbying the government to take action on extortionate school uniform costs, which are hitting some less well-off parents hard. She mentioned a constituent, who had described how her daughter’s academy required parents to buy different coloured sweatshirts for every academic year.
Jones called on the government to immediately deliver on its promise to make uniform guidance statutory, and to consider VAT changes post-Brexit.
Before the extra £1.3 billion announced over the next two years, Hackney was going to be one of the areas to be hit the hardest.
Hackney Council called on Greening to protect schools in the borough from £25 million worth of cuts, and new estimates show that the reductions would be half that figure.
Parents and campaigners welcomed the extra money, but the borough’s schools are still facing a £13 million reduction by 2020.
This works out as £456 per pupil, which will make things even worse for the 57 schools who registered a budget deficit in 2015/16.
Parents and teachers in the borough are organising a protest against school cuts on October 4 by linking hands at the end of the school day.