MORE than £3 million has been lost from school budgets in Weaver Vale since 2015, new figures have revealed.

Following a survey conducted by Mike Amesbury MP, it was revealed that £3.4 million will be lost from the budget of 42 schools in his constituency from 2015 to 2020 – an average of £81,000 per school.

The study also found that half of schools have experienced rising pupil numbers since 2015, while more than 60 per cent have been forced to make staffing cuts in the same period.

And three quarters of schools that responded to the survey rated their financial sustainability as either ‘unhealthy’ or ‘very unhealthy’.

Presenting the findings to a National Association for Head Teachers (NAHT) union summit in Crewe, the Labour MP said: “We are told austerity is over but it certainly isn’t being felt in schools here in Cheshire.

“Cuts don’t just mean fewer textbooks or equipment. All too often they are meaning that staff are overstretched, doing more than ever before, trying to cover responsibilities that used to be properly catered for.

“If the Conservatives are serious about our children’s education then it will be a priority in the upcoming spending review.”

Mr Amesbury’s survey also found that 60 per cent of schools in his constituency had either a fall or freeze in their number of special educational needs (SEN) staff since 2015.

Northwich Guardian:

Meanwhile, many headteachers who responded to the survey said they have been forced to make cuts to books and equipment, teacher training and development, school trips, external student support and SEN provision.

One said: “Teaching assistants cover more planning and preparation time for teachers and rising SEN demand meaning less support for other children.”

Another wrote: “Schools are being asked to take on a wider role in family support and mental health.

“Cuts to social care mean support workers are only available for statutory work, leaving schools to pick up the early intervention work that they have no capacity for.”

Simon Kidwell, headteacher at Hartford Manor Primary School, is NAHT branch secretary for Cheshire.

He told the Guardian that as a result of budget pressures, his school was forced to cut its number of classes from 15 to 14 two years ago, while a number of teaching assistants were also made redundant.

And the school could be forced to take similar action again if it does not see an increase in pupil numbers in September – although Mr Kidwell is confident that numbers will rise this year.

Mr Kidwell said: “Since then we have been using our school reserves to prop up the budget and next year we are looking at setting a deficit budget – and that is the first time in 14 years as a headteacher that I have had to look at doing that.

Northwich Guardian:

“We are reaching breaking point. In real term cuts we are looking at £65,000 a year, which is two teachers or four teaching assistants, so it is really challenging – and that is the same for many of my colleagues across Northwich.”

In the 2018 Annual Report on Education Spending in England, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that total school spending per pupil has fallen by eight per cent in real terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18.

The IFS says this was mainly due to a 55 per cent cut to local authority spending on services, and cuts of more than 20 per cent to sixth-form funding, while per pupil funding for primary and secondary schools is now four per cent below its peak in 2015.

A spokesman at the Department for Education said: “Since 2017, we have given every local authority more money for every pupil in every school but we recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more.

“In December, we announced £250 million additional funding for high needs over this year and the next, bringing the total high needs budget to over £6 billion this year, up from £5 billion in 2013.

“We’re supporting schools and headteachers to make the most of their budgets and reduce the over £10 billion they spend on non-staffing costs such as energy, water bills and materials.”