Lewes schools funding crisis: ‘We’re now on a financial cliff-edge’

The banner at Southover Primary School
The banner at Southover Primary School

Six schools in Lewes took part in a co-ordinated protest against damaging funding cuts on Friday (March 29).

Campaigners say school leaders are being forced to make difficult decisions about cutting services and which basic supplies they can afford to go without because school budgets are so tight.

Parents, children and staff joined forces at Lewes Priory, Southover CE Primary, Western Road Community Primary, South Malling CE Primary, Wallands Community Primary and Iford and Kingston CE Primary schools, all unveiling a ‘Stop School Cuts’ banner on Friday afternoon to highlight the difficulties they are facing.

The Government claims that education funding is higher than ever. But according to the campaign group Stop School Cuts, since 2015 schools in East Sussex have lost out on £37m because of Government cuts to per pupil funding. Teachers say the lack of funding is having a real impact in the classroom.

Some of the children gathered were asked to draw up a list of things their schools needed. Bea, who is 11 and goes to Southover, said: “We need things like white board pens, paper and maths books. My teachers are worried about it but they try not to show it in front of us so that we don’t worry.”

In a joint statement, the Headteachers from Iford and Kingston, Southover, South Malling, Wallands and Western Road Primary Schools said: “All the schools in Lewes are working very hard to make ends meet but this is becoming increasingly difficult, verging on almost impossible.

“With increased pressures on our budgets and cuts to services that support us it is make-or-break time for our schools. In the end, it is the children within our communities who will suffer – they deserve better.”

Tony Smith, Headteacher at Priory School, believes schools can no longer shield pupils from the impact of the cuts. He said: “Some SEN provision has had to be reduced, we have fewer Teaching Assistants and less resources .

“Our class sizes have had to increase as has the teaching load of staff. We can now only carry out urgent repairs to the building and are unable to invest in capital without donations from parents and the community.

“With huge increases to pensions contributions which are only currently funded for one year, only partially funded teacher pay awards and unfunded pay increase for non-teaching staff we are now on a financial cliff-edge. Add to this the teacher recruitment and retention crisis and this is a ‘perfect storm’ which has the potential for havoc unless there is serious and sustained investment in our schools.”