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Schools 'on the precipice' risk teaching cuts to survive, MP warns

Colchester MP Will Quince has warned that schools are 'on the precipice' due to low funding. Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTO

Colchester MP Will Quince has warned that schools are 'on the precipice' due to low funding. Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTO

Fears have been raised that schools might be forced to reduce teaching numbers due to a chronic lack of funding - causing a "detrimental impact" on young people.

Colchester MP Will Quince. Picture: PHIL MORLEY/ARCHANTColchester MP Will Quince. Picture: PHIL MORLEY/ARCHANT

Colchester MP Will Quince warned that “we are on the precipice” during the House of Commons debate about education funding, adding: “If there is no more fat to trim, the only place left to go is to reduce staff.

“That will have a detrimental impact on pupils’ attainment and, indeed, outcomes across the board.”

He warned that schools in his Essex constituency are already not filling support vacancies.

“My fear is that if that continues, we will start to see a decline in results,” he said.

However a Department for Education spokesman said schools in Essex will receive an increase of 3.3% per pupil in 2019-20, compared to 2017-18.

“While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we do recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more,” the spokesman added.

“That’s why we have introduced a wide range of practical support to help schools and headteachers and their local authorities make the most of every pound, ensuring resources are being used in the best possible way to improve outcomes for children.”

During his speech, Mr Quince said schools are “facing unprecedented cost pressures” including special educational needs support, recruitment and staff training to name a few.

He also said further education is “verging on a crisis”, with funding frozen at £4,000 per student aged 16 and 17 since 2013.

For 18-year-olds, the amount per head is even less at £3,300 - and has been at that level since 2014.

“Costs have risen sharply and the budget has not risen to reflect that,” Mr Quince said.

“That is not good for students - it is damaging our international competitiveness and it harms social mobility.”

He went on to say: “I genuinely believe that there is no more fat left to trim, and I do not want our headteachers focusing on how they can further squeeze their budgets.

“I want them focusing on educational attainment and improving outcomes for students in all our schools.

“We do need an increase in the revenue budget and in the high-needs budget. The rate for 16 to 19-year-old pupils must increase.”

He also said funding settlements for schools should last for at least three years, saying headteachers need “certainty and consistency” in managing their budgets.

“We need a long-term plan for education and schools, in the same way that we have one for our NHS,” Mr Quince said.

“This is absolutely the right thing to do, because teachers and headteachers need that certainty and consistency.

“We also need to ensure that mental and physical health services are adequately resourced.”

Essex County Council cabinet member for education Ray Gooding said: “We have excellent schools in the county, with 90% judged at least good by Ofsted.

“However, we are not complacent and we need to ensure that these levels are sustained and with increasing budget pressures across the education system this is becoming more challenging each year.

“We are working with all MPs in Essex in regards to lobbying government for additional education funding, many of which have already agreed to take this matter up with the Department for Education.”

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