Hampshire headteachers to write to parents over funding concerns

HEADTEACHERS across the region are to join their national counterparts in writing a letter to parents telling them about the effects of funding cuts on children’s education.

Saturday, 9th March 2019, 10:11 am
Updated Saturday, 9th March 2019, 11:20 am
The school funding protest march held by headteachers in London in September Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

The letter states: ‘Schools are still not being provided with adequate funding and resources to deliver the level of… support that is expected and that families and children deserve.’ 

The unprecedented action is being co-ordinated by Petersfield headteacher and Worthless campaign leader for Hampshire, Tony Markin. The Worthless Campaign is a national collaboration of headteachers lobbying Parliament for more money.

Mr Markham said: ‘As headteachers we wouldn’t usually take such drastic action as we wouldn’t want to panic parents. Taking such action shows just how much we are struggling. We simply can’t make budgets balance and schools are already having to ask parents to make a contribution towards even basic equipment.’

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Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, meeting with Nick Gibb to discuss concerns over the funding of Portsmouth schools.

One of the grievances outlined relates to a reluctance of education secretary Damian Hinds, who is also the MP for East Hampshire, and schools minister Nick Gibb to meet headteachers.

Mr Markham added: ‘We have been trying since September to meet them. On three separate occasions our requests fell on deaf ears.’

The heads’ decision to issue the letter follows September’s lobbying of Parliament in which 2,000 headteachers, many from Hampshire, marched on Parliament to demand increased funding.

Mr Markham hopes that informing parents of the current financial constraints will increase this pressure.   ‘We never received any formal response to the march - despite a petition signed by thousands of headteachers. We are struggling to get them to listen but if parents were to also contact their MPs it would help support our cause,’ he said. It is a strategy supported by National Education Union vice president and Portsmouth teacher, Amanda Martin. 

National Education Union Vice President and Portsmouth teacher, Amanda Martin.

Ms Martin said: ‘Our union is aware of the letter being sent to parents. It shows just how desperate the situation has become and it is time parents were made fully aware of the funding crisis schools are in.’

The letter follows a local school staff survey conducted by Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan. The study was part of Mr Morgan’s Portsmouth Against School Cuts campaign which has been supported by The News.

The survey identified not a single respondent indicated they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their school’s funding and every school said it had made cuts since 2015.

The questionnaire also revealed the main areas of concern surrounded special educational needs provision and roughly half of respondents claimed that staff had provided resources at their own expense.

Hampshire Headteacher, Tony Markham, leaving Downing Street after submitting the head teachers petition for fairer funding.

Mr Morgan said: ‘Analysis by the House of Commons library has found that real-terms spending on schools and colleges has slumped from £95.5bn in 2011 to £87.8bn last year, a total fall of £7.7bn. These figures come as no surprise to teachers in Portsmouth, who are having to make do with less, and parents who are receiving begging letters from schools to cover basic supplies.’

The Department for Education has responded to both the funding situation and the letter’s claims that ministers had failed to agree to meet headteachers.

A department spokesman said Mr Hinds had negotiated an extra £750m for schools and was ‘putting a strong case to the Treasury ahead of the next spending review’. The spokesman also said the education secretary met teachers and unions ‘on a regular basis’ and that it was ‘fundamentally untrue’ to say funding was not a priority for him.