A COUNTY Durham headteacher has revealed a school is recruiting teachers on the basis of how much they cost rather than their ability to teach.

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 headteacher at a school in County Durham has said the Government "must stop" the cuts to education, adding their current recruitment policy "does not sit comfortably - but needs must".

The headteacher said: “Every decision we make we are looking at how we can save money. When we come to recruiting teachers, we now get at best ten people applying for a new position, but in the past it used to be at least 30.

“Those teachers with ten years-experience are going to be more expensive than those who are newly qualified, so you end up making a decision on who is cheaper rather than who is the better teacher.

"Obviously, we work with our newly qualified teachers and develop them, but it doesn’t sit comfortably with me that we have to do this in this profession, but needs must, we don’t have a choice, we work with a budget.”

Discussing concerns over infrastructure, they added: “Another major concern is capital investment. Lots of schools are in older buildings and they are falling down around them. They don’t have a sufficient capital budget to deal with issues, it is just a patching up job. They need significant investment."

The headteacher said despite Government claims school funding has increased in recent years, per pupil and real term funding has fallen.

“One of the first things that gets affected is welfare of students. Mental health is a big issue at the moment and the government is regularly reminding us of that. We’ve got a student councillor, but a lot of schools don’t.

"The basic requirements of covering English, Maths and Science is all we can do.

“The first things that go is enrichment activities, they are the icing on the cake. Teachers have to be the main thing, they are the bread and butter, but we always try and treat the children as if they were our own children and give them the best opportunities we can. They might discover something they are passionate about and want to pursue in later life.

“Teaching is a very demanding job, everyone knows that, it is target driven and outcome driven, people can debate whether that is right or wrong, but they do feel it.

“If we do have to cut further, it will be a significant impact. We can hope the Government will finally stop and realise. They have to stop. They have to stop the back-door cuts to education. Standards will drop to a below acceptable level - we have to be realistic about that.”

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.”