Lobby for more school funding call

HEADTEACHERS yesterday urged parents to lobby Parliament and Essex County Council for extra money for schools.Steve Hunt, the finance manager of the North Essex Network, a consortium of 17 schools, has warned each school in the group needs £30,000 extra funding next year to avoid a financial crisis.

By Juliette Maxam

HEADTEACHERS yesterday urged parents to lobby Parliament and Essex County Council for extra money for schools.

Steve Hunt, the finance manager of the North Essex Network, a consortium of 17 schools, has warned each school in the group needs £30,000 extra funding next year to avoid a financial crisis.

The Network schools – like other schools in the county – have been hard hit by this year's "standstill" budget, which combined with increases in National Insurance and pensions contributions and rises in teachers' salaries have effectively produced a budget cut.


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All the schools have had to make cuts including not renewing temporary contracts for teachers and teaching assistants and reducing or cutting supply cover, maintenance budgets and training funds.

The schools have used their savings to avoid losing permanent teachers.

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But Mr Hunt, a former bank manager, said: "The problem this year, although it's been a problem, will be nothing like the problem we'll have next year if we receive the same level of funding as this year.

"Everything's been cut to the bare bone. It's difficult to see what cuts could be made next year that won't have a really serious impact. We can't believe they want us to be in that position."

Two Colchester headteachers from the Network, Kathy Dowsett, of Highwoods Primary School, and Sheena Clover, of Parsons Heath School, yesterday called for parents to lobby politicians to press for increases in school budgets for next year.

"Lots of parents and governors have already written to Charles Clarke (Education Minister) about the budget. I would urge parents to write to Charles Clarke and the county council to put pressure on them to give us more money next year," said Mrs Clover.

Mr Hunt said: "I have given my dossier to the three MPs covering our area (Bob Russell, Colchester, Bernard Jenkin, North Essex, and Ivan Henderson, Harwich). They have undertaken to forward the dossier to Charles Clarke to put pressure on in that respect.

"I have sent the same dossier to Iris Pummell (Essex County Council portfolio holder responsible for education)."

He added: "I'm just trying to use as much influence as I can to get the right decision taken whether it be by the county council or Government."

Mr Russell, who met Mrs Clover, Mrs Dowsett and Mr Hunt yesterday, said: "Look at the strength of case being made – 17 schools, some town, some rural, across three constituencies. It's a real cross-section of every type of school, but all have the same common denominator – financial problems."

Schools Minister David Miliband, responding to Mr Russell's letter about the issue, said: "We have been looking carefully at this year's arrangements with a view to identifying changes to ensure the delivery of a reasonable per pupil settlement in 2004-5.

"Our intention is to ensure that changes are in place in good time to allow schools and LEAs to plan for 2004-5 and so provide increased predictability and stability in school funding."

Mrs Pummell said the county council had no more money to give schools so parents, teachers and governors should lobby Government for extra funding.

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