Teaching unions say school funds are at ‘breaking point’ after one school announced it is closing early on Fridays for lack of cash.
Stockport’s Vale View primary says that from September, it will close early on Fridays at lunchtime.
For those parents who are unable to pick up their children when the school closes face charges for the school to look after them.
The school is said to be one of around 25 in England that are looking to shorten their school week to reduce costs.
However, the governors have provoked anger in some parents by trying to persuade them that the half day will be a bonus for families leading busy lives.
The school’s headteacher says the governor’s letter had been sent with ‘good intentions’ but she appreciates why parents are angry, particularly those who work or have children at other schools.
Statutory pay rise has created a black hole in the budget
One of the big issues for the primary school is the statutory pay rise that has created a big hole in the budget of £100,000 and from a staff of 90, the headteacher says there will be ‘double figure’ redundancies.
The head, Helen Hannah, says that if they do not close early on Fridays, then there will need to be larger class sizes, potentially of up to 40 pupils, and more staff layoffs.
Under the new regime, classes from September will end at 12.45pm every Friday and for those who cannot pick their children up they will be facing a £3.50 charge per child.
Governors say that since January 2017, the school’s budget has been reduced by £400,000 and in July art therapy classes will end, saving £9,500.
The budget for language and speech therapy sessions has been cut by £16,000.
Also, the school says that by reducing subsidies for its school trips, they will save £50,000 and another £40,000 will be saved supporting those sitting Year 6 SATs.
Not replacing teaching assistants who retire or leave
The school is also saving £136,000 by not replacing teaching assistants who retire or leave and resources have been reduced by £100,000.
One of the issues, the governors say, is that the school receives £650 less per pupil than their counterparts in Manchester, which is a few streets away. The area of Reddish in Stockport is said to be among the most disadvantaged areas in the North West.
Ms Hannah said: “Running the school costs the same in teachers’ salaries and providing a good curriculum and yet a similar Manchester school about a mile away will receive £350,000 per year more just in basic funding.”
The National Association of Headteachers’ general secretary, Paul Whiteman, said the shortening of a school week should be ‘sounding the alarm’ for the government.
‘School budgets are at breaking point’
He said: “School budgets are at breaking point and school leaders have made the obvious savings but they now face making major changes in the way they provide education.”
The Department for Education says it doesn’t know how many schools have brought in half days because there’s no need to tell the DfE when they do so.
However, Ms Hannah says she has spoken with other headteachers in London, Birmingham, and Manchester who have all had to do similar things.
The DfE spokesperson added: “Changes to the school day should be reasonable and parents should be consulted adequately before the changes are made, so they can make alternative childcare arrangements.”
They added that school budgets have been protected in real terms since 2010 and an extra £1.3 billion has been provided across 2018/19 and 2019/20 in addition to the spending plans that have been agreed.