Half of schools turn to parents for financial support, unions claim

10 Apr 17

Teaching unions have urged the government to “sit up and listen” on education funding, after a new survey revealed half of schools have turned to parents for financial support.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers and National Union of Teachers have said the survey, published today, indicates teaching standards are dropping as schools focus on cutting costs.

According to a joint statement, the unions said that “funding pressures are already biting in schools in England, affecting the quality of children’s education, and parents are being asked to make up the shortfall”.

The government has introduced a requirement for schools to find savings of £1.3bn by better procurement and £1.7bn by using staff more efficiently by 2019-20.

Last month MP’s labeled Whitehall’s cost-cutting exercise “dangerous” amid concerns further cuts could not be made without damaging education standards.

The survey of nearly 1,200 teachers, support staff and headteachers carried out in March, found that 49% said their school has asked parents to pay for items to help their child’s education.

Respondents claimed that parents were asked to pay to attend school concerts and sports events, to pay for text books (10%) and for art and design technology materials (12%).

Meanwhile, one in six said their school asks parents for money to help fund the school (17% of primary and 16% of secondary respondents).

One respondent, a teacher in a primary school in Essex, said: “Over the last two years, the ethos of the school has changed from being based on a family atmosphere to being driven by cost-cutting”.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “The government needs to sit up and listen. Schools are already struggling to make ends meet and children are already losing out.

“But government underfunding means this will get much worse, since in two years’ time schools will have to make savings of more than £3bn a year.

“Unless the government finds more money for schools and fast, today’s school children will have severely limited choices at school and children from poorer families will be even further disadvantaged because their parents may struggle to provide the resources schools can no longer afford.”

According to the survey, 76% of respondents said their school’s budget has been cut this year compared to last year.

Of those surveyed, 93% were pessimistic about their school’s funding over the coming three years, and 50% said their school has larger class sizes than last year, rising to 70% of secondary school respondents.

The survey found 60% of secondary schools had cut the range of non-English Baccalaureate subjects while 64% now have fewer vocational options. Also, 24% had cut teaching hours for courses.

More than 70% of both primary and secondary schools had cut spending on books and equipment.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of NUT, said: “Children deserve and need an education system that supports their learning and provides a rich and varied curriculum but schools are struggling to provide this with their current funding. When the government's real terms cuts take effect schools will simply be running on empty.

“Parents cannot sit back and watch their children’s education harmed by this bargain-basement approach to schooling.”

There were also reports of schools renting out school buildings to raise funds, and 44% of respondents said their organisation did this.

While 26% said their schools were renting out facilities on school grounds and 5% said the school had rented out its car park.

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