Local schools face funding crisis

Council demands more funding from education minister to cover £3.5 million shortfall

Bob Garnett, Corporate Director of Hounslow�s Lifelong Learning, Leisure and Cultural Services has written to Charles Clarke, MP Secretary of State for Education and Skills, demanding greater financial investment of the Borough�s primary ad secondary schools.

He estimates that Hounslow is a massive £3.5 million short of being able to set balanced budgets. Many primary schools the shortfall is in the range of £20,000 to £40,000, although some face significantly larger deficits. For the Borough�s 14 secondary schools the current total shortfall is approximately £2,500,000.

He outlined for Mr Clarke the considerable implications of under-funding stating, amongst others:
� the Council has insufficient balances to underwrite cumulative deficit budgets of this amount.
� Schools are managing the situation by not replacing staff that leave. Staff losses are considerable. The effect of this is that the curriculum cannot be delivered satisfactorily and standards of teaching and learning are likely to fall. Many primary schools are having to adopt large classes and undesirable groupings.
� Specialist programmes such as those under Excellence in Cities are being abandoned as the funds are applied to mainstream salary costs.
� Staff cannot be released to undertake training on improvement programmes, since schools cannot afford to employ supply staff. The funds allocated for this purpose have been assigned to mainstream salary costs.
� Specialist and beacon schools (e.g. St Mary�s R.C. Primary) are unable to deliver their outreach programmes since funds will have to be diverted to mainstream salary costs.

This dismal scenario is exacerbated by the fact that members of staff are able to gain significantly through moving to inner London schools, due to the difference between inner and outer London allowance (Hounslow is outer London, where as Ealing is inner). Headteachers are very concerned that next year will see a further deterioration in a situation that is already very bad.

David Brockie, Headteacher at Chiswick Community School reportedly said part of the problem lay behind the change in National Insurance and Pension contributions that have taken place this year, which means a 14 per cent increase in his school's wage bill. He said that money that would have gone to make urgent repairs to the school is now needed for salaries and described the lack of response to the school's problems as "appalling."

May 23, 2003