Covid has exacerbated schools funding crisis

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Northern schools are facing a funding crisis and those in the poorest areas are being hit hardest, SHINE has warned.

Schools whose budgets were already stretched before COVID are now having to find the funds to pay for costs related to the pandemic.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, SHINE’s CEO Fiona Spellman said: “The financial challenges wrought by COVID on our education system are real and many places aren’t getting anything like enough help.

“Educational leaders are having to find funds to cover additional cleaning costs, cover for absent staff and additional measures to support social distancing, all from within existing resources. This is forcing them to make impossible decisions between the physical safety of their pupils and staff and their wider needs.

“Just like businesses, schools have faced rapidly rising costs in order to stay open, but unlike businesses, schools are not eligible for grants to alleviate such pressures.”

SHINE is backing a petition that is calling for the government to fully fund schools for COVID-19 costs and provide relief for loss of income.

Schools in the North East were already facing budget cuts that left those in deprived areas often the most out of pocket.

Analysis last year by the School Cuts coalition calculated that most schools in England – more than 80 per cent – would have less funding per pupil in real terms in 2020 compared to 2015.

Analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that per-pupil funding has fallen by eight per cent since 2010, just as needs have been rising in many areas.

Meanwhile, lockdown has resulted in a loss of learning that schools will need additional resource to tackle.

“The government’s £1bn catch-up fund does not present a solution to this problem,” added Fiona. “£650 million of this will be spread evenly across all schools and will not therefore be used to specifically support the places where we know COVID has had the greatest effect.

“The remaining £350 million has been allocated for additional tuition programmes which, while valuable in their own right, can’t hope to compensate for a looming crisis in core funding across the education system. Moreover, special schools, early years settings and post-16 students have all missed out from any additional targeted support.”

SHINE is urging people to sign the petition, which can be found at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/555718.

“Staff across education have done an amazing job of supporting children through this crisis, often at great personal cost,” said Fiona. “It’s time we stood behind them in demanding better.”