Schools across the North East are calling for greater support from the Prime Minister amid financial pressures and a recruitment crisis.

Schools North East (SNE) have today (December 5) issued a statement questioning Rishi Sunak's post-16 maths plan, highlighting the finanical and staffing constraints North East education currently faces.

This comes after the PM announced plans for children to have some form of maths education up to the age of 18.

They said schools are currently facing challenges such as ongoing financial pressures, a recruitment and retention crisis, persistent absences, and the lost learning resulting from the pandemic.

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SNE also questioned the reasoning of the scheme, and the evidence the decision was based on.

Adding to this, they pointed to government figures showing a drop in new teacher trainees, 28,991 new entrants to Initial Teacher Training in 2022/23 compared to 36,159 in 2021/22.

In a statement, a SNE spokesperson said: "The funding announcements last year for education were welcome, and helped ease the financial pressures related to rising energy costs and unfunded staff pay awards.

"[However], schools are facing ongoing financial pressures, a recruitment and retention crisis, and persistent absences.

"Schools are continuing to support students, both as they ‘catch-up’ from lost learning, and also with their mental health and wellbeing.

"There has been an increase of students with special educational needs (SEND), and particularly significant challenges in early years. There is a lack of capacity in the system to meet these challenges.

"These issues must be prioritised if the Prime Minister is serious about levelling-up opportunities across the country."

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Figures published by the Department for Education for County Durham show attainment levels for young children in reading, writing, maths and science have dropped sharply from 2018/19 to 2021/22.

In this period, KS1 attainment levels for reading had fallen from 76% to 65%, 73% to 58% for writing, 78% to 67% for maths, and 83% to 78% for science.

While in Darlington, statistics show a fall in reading attainment levels from 76% to 63%, 71% to 55% for writing, 78% to 66% for maths, and 83% to 76% for science.

National figures show attainment levels in these four subjects have fallen in every area across the country when compared to pre-pandemic data.

Meanwhile, teaching vacancies have increased significantly in the region in 2022 as teaching job site, TeachVac, posted 406 vacancies for primary and secondary schools through its website over the course of last year – up by 34% in 2021.

Data on the site also shows primary and secondary schools in Darlington listed more than twice as many vacancies as last year; 46 in 2021 compared to 94 in 2022.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said "It is unsurprising that the disruption of the last few years has led to the percentage of pupils meeting the expected standards in reading, writing, maths and science falling.

"If the Government is serious about meeting its attainment targets, it must recognise and address the pressures schools are under and provide the resources and support that are desperately needed.

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Speaking on the teacher shortage, he added: "This is the result of a decade of real-terms pay cuts which have eroded the value of salaries and workload pressures caused by government underfunding of education, leaving staff doing more work with fewer resources.

"If schools cannot put teachers in front of classes, they cannot possibly maintain and improve educational standards.

"The Government must work with the profession on a strategy to improve teacher recruitment and retention and back this up with sufficient funding."