Essex schools' cash - where is it?

PRIMARY schools in Essex are in major crisis due to a lack of funding, according to a report published today.A major survey of headteachers across the county has revealed schools face making staff redundant, reducing maintenance costs, buying fewer books and equipment and increasing class sizes if they are not to plunge into debt.

PRIMARY schools in Essex are in major crisis due to a lack of funding, according to a report published today.

A major survey of headteachers across the county has revealed schools face making staff redundant, reducing maintenance costs, buying fewer books and equipment and increasing class sizes if they are not to plunge into debt.

The report was prepared by Howard Williamson, chairman of the north-east branch of the Essex Primary Schools Headteachers' Association, and will be presented to Essex County Council's local education authority funding forum today.

More than 270 responses to 481 questionnaires issued by Mr Williamson to schools were returned, highlighting what he described as a "severe problem" for Essex primary schools.


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"Of those who responded, only 47 were actually able to set a budget from the cash allocated by the local education authority. The rest of them are in deficit at an average of £17,000," he said.

Despite Essex County Council's insistence it had paid to schools the amount ordered by Government – and the Government's insistence more cash was going to education – Mr Williamson, headteacher of Cann Hall Primary School in Clacton, warned children's school careers were in danger of being seriously damaged.

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"The money just isn't there. We need to ask both the Government and the local education authority where the missing cash is," he said.

"Essex schools are in a major crisis. Some headteachers are saying they just can't go on. They have used all their reserves.

"We are asked to improve, improve and improve, but all the funding is being taken, starving the children at the chalk-face.

"An awful lot of money is going into inspecting schools from top to bottom, but very little is filtering through to children."

Mr Williamson added increased salaries, pension payments and National Insurance contributions had hit schools hard.

"The teachers' pay award and the increases in super-annuation have had a severe effect on budgets," he said.

A Department of Education spokeswoman said the Government was is in the process of gathering information on funding from local education authorities.

"When we get all this information – which could be towards the end of this week – we are going to publish it," she added.

"Then we are going to have to see what happens from there. We need to find out where the funding is going. Ministers have said the money does not seem to have been passed out from local education authorities."

But Stephen Castle, Essex County Council's cabinet member responsible for communication, said: "Essex recently had the worst settlement of any county council and local education authority in the country.

"We have transferred to schools the amount of money the Government minister responsible said we should.

"We do not think there is any way the Government will be able to point at Essex and say we have not transferred the money we should."

He added: "We are aware there are budgetary pressures on primary and secondary schools. At the same time there are some schools which are delivering good balances.

"Ultimately, the problem is for the Government and what it tells the county to pass to schools. We believe it is a problem for Whitehall."

n A leading headteacher threatened to quit on national television yesterday in a row over funding shortages at her school which could force huge job cuts.

Dame Jean Else, headteacher of Whalley Range High School for Girls in Manchester, claimed the future success of the school was at risk due to a £600,000 shortfall, partly created by funding cutbacks.

She told GMTV she would "sadly" have to resign if that money could not be found.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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