Lewisham parents reveal fears for local schools’ futures following cuts

Campaigners say school cuts leave children unable to enjoy their favourite subjects Pic: Gemma from Parent ENGage

Lewisham teachers and parents marched on parliament last week, October 25, to protest against funding cuts to local schools.

Seventy one out of 77 schools in Lewisham face cuts, claim unions. Lewisham council also announced that half of these schools will be in deficit by 2019 and hundreds of other schools in ELL boroughs are in deficit right now.

A new report by Lewisham Council also showed that 13 – unnamed – schools are forecasted to be in deficit by the end of the year.

The teachers and parents from Lewisham that marched on parliament last week were joined by Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, teachers across the UK, the School Cuts coalition and the National Education Union (NEU).

Nicky Dixon, a parent to children in year six and year nine attending Lewisham schools and member of the Parent ENGage Lewisham, a parent-led network for parents of children that attend schools in the borough, told EastLondonLines: “Lewisham schools will no longer have core education funding cuts following the additional £1.3bn being put into the national funding formula. However, this is not new money, and we do not yet know which other education budgets will be cut to cover this.

“Parents feel passionately that the funding for education should be sufficient to cover all costs – our children represent the future of this country and when we are faced with uncertainty over skills and the labour force as a result of Brexit, we do not understand why the Government is short-changing the nation and our children.”

“We have noticed that as school assistants, lunchtime staff and other support staff leave schools, they are not necessarily being replaced to balance the books, as staff salaries are the highest cost a school has to cover.”

The National Audit Office has said that in 2018/19, schools will experience additional cost pressures of 1.6 per cent. Only 27 per cent of London schools will receive enough extra funding to deal with these cost pressures, leaving 73 per cent needing to make cuts to balance their books.

Dixon continued: “Some schools no longer book coaches for school trips.  Instead, 30+ pupils will travel by train and bus to their destinations.  In some schools, specialist teachers who teach part-time, such as for music, PE, have been let go to save money.  Some parents have re-employed music teachers to continue to provide music lessons to a small group of children in their homes. “

“Another element to this story, is the impact on school life for those Lewisham schools that have not been able to balance their books and have to borrow money from the council.  These schools face the biggest impact as teachers and subjects are cut.”

“Children definitely notice when they can no longer play football or arts and crafts after school, or cannot continue to learn to play the flute, etc.  For some, this may have represented the only opportunity to enhance skills in a much loved subject, and this stops the development of the child.”

A recent YouGov survey of parents in London for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) showed that a large majority of schools in London have asked parents for financial contributions to ease pressure on school budgets.

Dave Richards, Lewisham council’s group finance manager for children and young people, said in a press release: “The funding of schools still causes concern. While the Government have confirmed that no school will lose under the national funding formula next year, we still await further details.”

London Councils, an organisation that represents 32 borough councils and the City of London, estimates that the cost of meeting budgetary pressures for every school in England by 2019/20 would be £406 million nationally, including £99 million in London.

Lea Bonnell, National Education Union (NEU) spokesperson, said: “It is quite unthinkable that a Government would want our schools to be anything other than properly funded. Yet this is the position the majority of schools find themselves in.”

Kim Knappett, also from NEU, said: “Head teachers are at the end of their tether with many having to take the unprecedented step of writing home to parents to ask for money to help with the running of the school.”

School Cuts coalition, a project that enables parents to access information from local schools regarding budget cuts and staff cutbacks, reported that £2.8bn has been cut from school budgets since 2015.

They also reported that Lewisham schools overall will lose £9m by 2020, £255 per pupil and 172 teachers.

One of the worst hit schools in Lewisham is Conisborough College, which will lose seven teachers and £378.6k by 2020, according to School Cuts coalition data, which works out as 427 per pupil.

Cllr Peter John OBE, Deputy Chair of London Councils and Executive member with responsibility for schools, said: “Our survey shows that London parents are very concerned about the impact funding pressures could have on the quality of their children’s education and are increasingly having to make financial contributions to schools.”

“This is a sign that government has not gone far enough to ensure schools can meet all the necessary demands on their budgets, which in London include the cost of providing support for the growing number of pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) as well as higher salaries for teachers and support staff.”

The public have also voiced their concerns on Twitter:


Dixon told ELL: “We also know that schools struggling with budget management are cutting “non-viable” GCSE and A level subjects.  We have also been informed by the head teacher of a small Lewisham secondary school that it will cut its sixth form in its entirety.  We are concerned that the sixth form offering is being shrunk in the borough.”

Central government has recently announced an extra £1.3 billion in 2018/19 and 2019/20 for school funding, but London’s schools will receive a lower proportion of the new money than any other region in the country.

Minister for school standards Nick Gibb said: “The claims being made by the trade union about school funding are fundamentally misleading. There are no cuts in funding – every school will see an increase in funding through the formula from 2018.”

“The figures the trade union are peddling are based on historical data and do not reflect the situation in our schools today. They also ignore the fact that schools’ funding is driven by pupil numbers and, as pupil numbers rise, the amount of money schools receive will also increase.”

If you want to look at how cuts will affect local schools, go to https://schoolcuts.org.uk/#!/

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