Peterborough headteachers will take ‘drastic action’ unless school funding shortage addressed

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There’s not a day that goes by when we don’t hear about a council, school, police force or health service struggling to make ends meet, writes leader of Peterborough City Council John Holdich.

Just recently there’s been a national focus on schools with reports of headteachers having to make difficult decisions, such as finishing the school day early, making teachers redundant and cutting spending on books.

Nationally the pressure on schools is starting to show and Peterborough is no different.

RELATED: Peterborough schools ‘on verge’ of closing some days due to funding crisis

Across the country around 60 per cent of schools are said to be in that difficult situation of spending more than their income. Pupil numbers have increased by 10 per cent since 2010 whilst teacher numbers have remained largely the same.

In Peterborough, there has been government investment in education in recent years, but significant cost pressures and a sizeable increase in pupil numbers mean that in real terms schools are managing on a reduced budget. Between 2010 and 2018 our pupil numbers have increased by 26 per cent since, that’s 7,892 extra pupils.

Schools have done a tremendous job despite the pressures and have kept a close eye on the financial situation, meaning that pupils here have not experienced some of the changes we have seen taking place elsewhere. But headteachers and governing bodies may not be far away from having to take more drastic action such as this if the government does not provide better financial support.

Recently we wrote to every headteacher in the city to assess the level of impact that funding cuts have had on schools. About 75 per cent of schools have responded and some of the things they are telling us is that they are increasing class sizes, cutting certain subjects from the curriculum such as drama, using apprentices to cover roles and reducing the number of teaching assistants. There are also cases of headteachers teaching classes when there are not enough teachers to cover and some of our schools are sharing equipment such as lawnmowers.

These examples make it clear that we are following the same path as other parts of the country where schools have had to take more drastic action such as making teachers redundant. It the funding situation is not addressed, it could impact our children’s education as well as their future prospects.

Councillor Lynne Ayres, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education, skills and university, will now be using the responses from headteachers to write a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, to demand a meeting with him and his officials to make him aware of the very serious situation in Peterborough and the need for additional 
funding for schools.

Let’s hope he takes the situation seriously, not just in Peterborough, but across the country as a whole.

Central Park has long been regarded as a jewel in the city’s crown – it’s been a Green Flag award-winning park for 16 years!

So I am delighted to learn that the park has been nominated for the title UK’s Best Park in a competition run by Fields in Trust. If enough people vote, then Central Park could win the accolade, so please visit www.fieldsintrust.org/best-park/east and give your support.

I’m pleased to report that Shailesh Vara MP is leading the lobbying of government for Wittering to be announced as the new home of the Red Arrows. The MP organised a meeting at the Ministry of Defence for local councillors and the Mayor of Cambridgeshire.

Fingers crossed we get a good result – it would certainly be good news for Peterborough economically and in terms of getting our name on the map.

If you’re signed up to take part in the Perkins Great Eastern Run, or if you’re considering doing so, free training sessions are now taking place fortnightly on Wednesday evenings at the Embankment Athletics Track on Bishop’s Road. Runners can meet seasoned competitors who will be acting as pacers to help entrants achieve personal best times in the race which takes place on Sunday 13 October.

For more information, or to sign up for the half marathon or fun run, visit www.perkinsgreateasternrun.co.uk.