SCHOOL FUNDING CRISIS: Headteachers warn of mass redundancies at cash strapped Sheffield schools
Headteachers have warned of mass redundancies and an ongoing struggle to keep schools open amid a funding crisis in Sheffield.
Leaders are speaking out after it emerged that Sheffield schools are the worst funded out of all the major cities in England and the Government's new national funding formula, aimed at correcting historic disparities in the funding system, does little to alleviate the situation.
The Star is launching a campaign today calling for fairer funding with headteachers and politicians backing the fight.
The Department for Education said that schools in the area will attract an increase in funding of 6.6 per cent – equivalent to Â£20.4 million – when the NFF is implemented in full by 2020/21.
But education officials said this increase is not in line with inflation and rising costs and although most secondary schools will see their budgets increased, nearly all primaries will see them cut.
Oughtibridge Primary School headteacher, Jim Dugmore, said: "Many headteachers I know are increasingly worried about how we can keep schools functioning when looking at the savage cuts we're facing - a friend of mine has handed in her notice and she'll be a massive loss to her school and the city.
"I know so many colleagues looking at mass redundancies in order to try and balance their budgets in 2020 whilst despairing at how they'll manage to meet the needs of the children we serve.
"It is difficult to imagine how we will preserve the quality of the education we provide if this funding proposal goes ahead and that is fundamentally wrong."
He added that if his school was funded in line with those in Manchester then he would get an extra Â£800,000 more a year.
"We shouldn't have to be relying on the kindness of parents to top our budgets up for essential items - we're just asking for a level playing field because Sheffield's children deserve the same chances as children in any other major city," he said.
Headteacher at Lound Infant and Junior School, Emma Bellamy, said her school budget is being cut by 15 per cent over the next three years.
"The infant school is one of the worst hit schools in Sheffield," she said.
"What this means for us is that we are having to cut back on extra-curricular activities; we can no longer fund school trips and visits, reduce support staff hours with a possibility of redundancies, reduce the training and continuing professional development (CPD) that staff receive and cut back on resources we buy for children.
"My worry is the impact this is going to have on our pupils.
"I fear we will no longer be able to support the pupils like we have done in the past with interventions and teaching assistant support and I worry about the provision we can provide for our pupils with special educational needs and disabilities and our most vulnerable learners.
"I cannot see how we can retain the high academic standards our pupils currently have with these cuts.
"We also no longer have the funds to maintain the old Victorian building which hosts the junior school. We are writing to companies and bidding for extra funds to do this."
Another primary headteacher feared for schools' existance and viability.
He said: "I could lose all my teaching assistants under this formula. This would impact directly on pupils and standards.
"Some of my most vulnerable pupils could be impossible to support and if replicated across the city on other schools we could potentially see a huge spike in exclusions and a breakdown of the SEND strategy as schools have little or no capacity left to help vulnerable children.
"We could see more unqualified staff leading lessons, teaching headteachers who then have reduced capacity to lead strategically etc.
"There are many nightmare scenarios including inspirations people leaving the city or profession altogether and now is a time when Sheffield needs to hang on to its talent."
He added: "I fear this new funding formula could be a step too far.
"It could be the straw that breaks the already heavily-laden camel's back; the point at which we cannot keep things going and schools' very existence and viability begin to be questioned."