A DARLINGTON school is relying on parent fundraising to keep its standards up, a headteacher has revealed.

Today, The Northern Echo is revealing the outcome of a special investigation which has discovered schools across the region are facing an “unprecedented” crisis due to a severe shortage of funding.

Headteachers across the North-East and North Yorkshire have warned standards are dropping below an acceptable level and cuts are having a “significant impact” on children, including their mental health and welfare.

Staff at schools across Darlington, County Durham and North Yorkshire have told the Echo their focus is now on balancing the books rather than providing the best education possible, with one warning mass redundancies are inevitable if the situation doesn’t improve, and another saying school buildings require sufficient investment in order to keep them safe.

The Darlington headteacher has said they have effectively lost half a teacher every year for the past four years, and described the current situation as like "plugging a leaking roof".

“Every school has their own circumstance and for us it is the net loss of staff and the hidden costs involved with having additional classes. We have effectively lost half a teacher every year for the past four years, and if we hadn’t expanded, I would have had to look at mass redundancies.

"How we would have done that I don’t know because we didn’t get to that point. If we had not expanded, we would have had to reduce staff somehow.

“It has meant greater workload for teachers and they aren’t able to give as much attention. We try to shield parents because we don’t want to be negative.

"We are plugging the gaps, it like a leaking roof. You aren’t able to plan ahead. When children leave the school they will all have experienced slightly less attention and that will affect them."

The school boss also admitted the focus was now on "balancing the books" rather than teaching and parents had been trying to raise money for the school due to the cash shortage.

“There are guidelines by the government that we have to follow and we have to balance the books.

"We have not been able to refresh the laptops, which is something we wanted to do. The parents have done some fundraising for some new laptops, but that isn’t a strategy and it is not how it should be.

"Most of my focus is on balancing the books and how to reduce costs when it should be about how to teach better and the focus should be on the children. That doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

“I know I need extra resources and I want to add staff but I can’t do that. We should be able to plan ahead, think of the future, and do what we are here to do, make children the best they can be.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Since 2017 the government has given every local authority in England more money for every pupil in every school – allocating the biggest increases to the schools that have been most underfunded.

“This year, funding for schools in the North-East has increased by 2.9 per cent per pupil under the National Funding Formula, compared to 2017-18 funding levels.

“While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we know schools face budgeting challenges, which is why we have introduced a wide range of support to help schools reduce costs and get the best value from their resources – from a free-to-use vacancy service to cut the costs of recruiting teachers, to advisors who are providing expert help and support to individual schools that need it.

“The Education Secretary has made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back head teachers to have the resources they need to deliver a world class education.”