Hike funding

Schools urge parents to help fill funding gaps as costs soar | Schools

Days into the new school year, headteachers have sounded the alarm about a looming funding crisis in schools, with some parents urged to donate and parent-teacher associations waiting to fill gaps. funding gaps for classroom essentials.

As energy bills and salary costs rise, school leaders say money from PTA fundraising efforts will be needed to cover basic costs rather than ‘nice to have’ extras . In wealthy areas where APEs are able to raise huge sums, this could even be used to save jobs and help pay the bills.

Elsewhere, schools say APEs will struggle to raise funds this winter as the cost of living crisis hits households. Simon Kidwell, headmaster of Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire, said his school would not be asking parents for additional donations. “The PTA is very, very aware that parents don’t have the same money available.”

The crisis raises the prospect of a widening gap between schools where wealthy families are still able to donate money to improve their child’s education, and those in deprived areas. A CFO of a small trust in the southeast said: “I’m going to the PTA AGM in a few weeks. Basically, the message will be: as much money as you can raise should come to school. Not for specific projects…just so we can maintain our basic services.

Director Simon Kidwell says he is aware that “parents don’t have the same money available”. Photography: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Trust staff have removed light bulbs, turned down the heat and figured out which routes to cut to save money, but in the face of skyrocketing energy costs, it’s little more than DIY. “It’s an existential threat,” said the chief financial officer, who asked that he and his trust remain anonymous.

The electricity bill at a school in the trust has risen from £122,279 a year to £522,986 under a new two-year deal. The rise in petrol prices was even more dramatic, rising from £32,783 last year to £252,926, an increase of 671%.

“We’re a well-run trust, so we have decent reserves and we can probably enjoy it for a year and see what the government does,” the manager said. “If they don’t do anything, our reservations will disappear and we will carry out major layoffs. To be honest, might as well give up and go home. Schools will stop working.

A letter has been sent to parents warning that costs are rising at an alarming rate and will have ‘a detrimental impact’ on the quality of education provided, urging them to contact MPs and consider making a monthly donation of £15 or a suggestion of £180. contribution. Parental demand for donations isn’t new — many schools have run donation programs for years — but the urgency is.

Prime Minister Liz Truss has promised a six-month energy guarantee for the public sector, but few details have been released and the trust and headteachers say short-term aid will not be enough.

“We don’t tend to ask parents for a lot of money,” said Dr Paul Gosling, headmaster of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Exmouth, Devon, where 45 per cent of children qualify for free school meals . The PTFA (Parents, Teachers and Friends Association) usually raises around £5,000 a year which is spent on library books and helping children from low-income families participate in residential trips and school trips. other visits.

Gosling, who is chairman of the National Association of Head Teachers, expects his energy bills to double which will leave the school with a £10,000 shortfall. “If anything happens now, we are in a very precarious state. If a boiler breaks down or something needs fixing, we have nothing in the tank,” he said.

The principal of a secondary school in Home Counties, whose Parents’ Association (PA) raises £10,000-15,000 each year, said: ‘Ten years ago we were using this money for ‘ extras”, identifiable elements beyond the classroom supply – kit for sports clubs, stage lighting etc.

“In recent years, we have had to subsume their contributions into things that should be funded from government revenue streams – replacing 10-year-old classroom computers, acquiring equipment for science experiments, and buying textbooks for lessons.

“However, increasingly, the gap between our income and our needs makes the PA’s contribution – while welcome – almost irrelevant. The unfunded aspect of teacher pay is costing us £70,000 this year, the equivalent support staff figure is around £30,000, utilities are up around £200,000.

“Voluntary funds may have once improved the student experience. PA contributions may have been used then to fill the gaps during the decade of austerity, but now all they provide falls far short of the level needed to compensate for the reckless and systematic underfunding of schools.

Kerry-Jane Packman, executive director of Parentkind, which is the PTA’s membership association, said: “Schools have struggled for a long time, but the demand on PTAs is going to increase.”

In 2019, 3% of APEs surveyed said their funds had been spent on either staff salaries or training. More than two-thirds (68%) spent funds on educational materials in 2019, including textbooks, and 17% paid for school renovation projects.

While a small number of PTAs are able to raise £100,000 a year or more, the average PTA will raise £9,000. The PTA’s fundraising has also been devastated by the pandemic. In 2021, APEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland raised £60.8m, around half of what they raised before the pandemic.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The sums involved are enormous and well beyond the means of APEs. This is truly an issue the government needs to address – something it needs to do with a sense of urgency.

“Where we may well see APEs stepping in, however, is to help pupils whose families are struggling because of the cost of living crisis. For example, they could help buy clothes, books and other necessary supplies for young people who cannot afford these expenses.

The Department for Education has previously said the government recognizes schools are facing increased costs, but budgets will increase by £7bn by 2024-25, compared to 2021-22, of which £4bn billion in this financial year just to help schools respond to wider cost pressures such as energy prices and staff salaries.