This year’s £ 47.6bn school funding would require an injection of at least £ 2.38bn if Covid-19 costs are just 5% of spending, according to the union’s calculations. NASUWT teachers. This is in addition to the large-scale investment in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) that local authorities and trusted academies say they need.
Funding concerns come as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Sunday used an open letter to parents in England urging them to send their children to school on Tuesday.Acknowledging that some may be concerned about their children being present for the first time since March, he insisted that schools were safe and comprehensive measures in place to minimize infection. The health risk posed to children by Covid-19 was extremely low, he said.
School leaders who spoke to the Guardian, however, described desperate changes in budgets, sidelined projects and plans, and settling for a fraction of what was needed.
Paul Gosling of Exeter Road Community Primary School in Devon said he ideally would have liked to have a cleaner on site from this week to cover shared spaces, but it would have cost £ 15,000 at a school whose budget could only balance out at the end. of the year after many years of cuts.
“I can’t plan to have a cleaner on site if I have no idea if I will be able to make a claim against the fund, so I balance security against financial stability,” he said.
The government fund for coronavirus schools, which was introduced to cover exceptional costs related to the pandemic, closed on July 21. A notice on its website says it is slated to open a “second claims window” in the fall.
Simon Kidwell, headmaster of Hartford Manor Primary School and Nursery in Cheshire, said he needed to find £ 50,000 to cover costs. This was after spending £ 16,000 to make the school ‘covid secure’, including £ 11,500 for the installation of 37 hand washing stations. The losses included £ 7,000 in childcare costs, £ 21,000 for before and after school care and a £ 10,000 drop in fundraising due to canceled events.
“The government says fully opening schools is their number one priority, but there are no plans to support schools with additional costs related to Covid for the new school year,” he said.
Rebecca Poole, Director of Hampton High in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, said: “Our funding is really tight. Our business manager had to cut other parts of our school budget and it was really only because we felt this was a top priority and other things will need to be put aside.
“We set aside £ 10,000 for the laptops needed for distance learning after our IT manager negotiated deals, but it’s really tricky. I know every budget line and it’s literally taking £ 500 from one budget line to another to pay. There will be things we cannot invest in. ”
NASUWT teachers described budget constraints that mean that special wipes for cleaning desks, chairs and other surfaces are already being abandoned and replaced with improvised solutions. Others spoke of the worsening problems of schools already in debt, the burden of having to invest more in IT to prepare for distance learning, and costs such as hiring more teachers for classes. smaller.
“Schools face significant additional costs in terms of providing PPE, additional cleaning regimes, signage and support for changes to the school day. These are not one-time costs but additional expenses that schools will have to continue to find in their budgets while Covid-19 remains in circulation, ”said Dr Patrick Roach, Secretary General of the NASUWT.
“Many of our members have shared with us their concern that their schools will struggle to meet these costs, especially in the context of years of cuts to education budgets. Schools need to be assured that they will have the additional financial and practical resources they need to stay open without sacrificing security. ”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “School principals, teachers and school staff have gone to great lengths to ensure that children can safely return to their classes when the new term begins because it is the best place for their education, development and well-being.