A TEACHING union has warned of the severe impact that funding cuts are having North East schools.

The National Association of Head Teachers surveyed teachers about funding for schools and the responses from school leaders in the North East showed that: More than a third have already had to make cuts to balance their budget, and 29 per cent predict they will be forced to make cuts this year.

More than a fifth predict a deficit budget in 2021/22 based on current funding levels.

School leaders also identified a number of factors that were causing pressure on their budgets.

These include, the costs associated with maintaining coronavirus safety controls, was a huge factor in school budgeting.

Providing required support for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability which 93 per cent of school leaders said that funding for pupils with SEND in their school is insufficient.

The same proportion (93 per cent) reported that top-up funding for pupils with Education Health and Care plans was insufficient.

Read more: Tribute to County Durham teenager who died after fatal attack at the weekend
Costs associated with supply cover, as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic with many teachers absent or having to self-isolate.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary said: “The Government’s failure to invest in schools in the North East and across the country over the past decade is forcing school leaders to cut back on staff, support for pupils, and enrichment activities.

"It is clear that school budgets in the region remain under enormous pressure.

"The evidence is very clear that by 2023 school funding will still be lower in real-terms than it was in 2010.

"Given the additional demands on schools, including the challenge of responding to Covid-19, that is not a sustainable position and will lead to further cuts in schools becoming unavoidable.

“Our research shows that already more than a third of school leaders in the North East are being forced to make cuts in 2020/21.”

The Northern Echo: Left: Kate Chisholm, who is a trustee at Schools North East and Executive Head Teacher at Oakfield Infant and Junior Schools Federation in Gateshead
Right: Alex Cunningham MP

Kate Chisholm, a trustee at Schools North East and Executive Head Teacher at Oakfield Infant and Junior Schools Federation in Gateshead, said: “Over the last six years funding has been squeezed from school budgets whilst the government has expected more and more from the educational community.

“In the last three years in a previous school I had to undergo two full redundancy procedures, losing over 18 members of staff. Schools are now needing to cut back on which resources we buy.

“I am having to choose between phonetically matched books and numicon, pencils or exercise books and moreover how we prioritise the support necessary for our SEND pupils as the high needs funding block is no longer fit for purpose.

"Most schools are setting deficit budgets and having to decide which year groups have 30 plus pupils in each class, taking us back to the 80s in terms of quality of pupil ratios.

“It would appear the government feels they are ‘doing us a favour’ in providing any funding whatsoever when in fact we are all here to service the governments ‘intent’ of having a first rate education system.

“Unfortunately, without a sensible budget where leaders are not having to rob Peter to pay Paul the system will fail.

“The only way that education can be successful is if teachers do not have a myriad of barriers in the form of lack of resources, an insurmountable number of pupils in each class, and, no resource to pay for high level and progressive for Continuing Professional Development staff.

Read more: Government confirm major change to Covid vaccines for children after parents hit out

“With the pressures brought about not only by the pandemic lag in learning, Ofsted's reimagined and somewhat intangible curriculum expectations mixed with the very difficult choices.

"Leaders are having to make choices in ‘what is more important’ in their purchasing power.

"I believe the future of the education system as we know it will be bleak indeed.

“You can’t have a platinum school provision from a cardboard funding system.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “This government is providing the biggest uplift to school funding in a decade – £14 billion in total over the three years to 2022-23. This includes a £7.1 billion increase in funding for schools by 2022-23, compared to 2019-20 funding levels.

​“Next year, funding through the schools national funding formula (NFF) is increasing by 2.8 per cent per pupil compared to 2021-22. The NFF continues to distribute this fairly, based on the needs of schools and their pupil cohorts.”

Labour has criticised the Government for failing to 'level up' education in the North.

Alex Cunningham MP for Stockton North said: “I am very proud how our schools, teachers and support staff responded to the Covid pandemic and ensuring children’s education continued during this incredibly difficult and stressful period. However, from talking to school staff it is clear that they need more financial support from central Government.

“The Covid-19 pandemic widened the North-South educational divide and schools in Stockton North and across Teesside need more support to close this gap. The Government needs to do more to ensure this happens – put their money where their mouth is and provide the funding our schools need.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054