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Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay head teachers appeal for help lobbying Secretary of State over budget cuts

School heads concerned about budget cuts have appealed to parents for help securing a meeting with the Secretary of State for Education.

At least six head teachers across Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay have written to parents laying bare the impact of an 8% real terms decrease to school funding over the last decade.

They say that despite three separate attempts to bring the "seriousness of the current school funding crisis" to the attention of Damian Hinds MP, their requests have been repeatedly spurned.

Stuart Pywell, the head teacher of St Stephen's Junior school
Stuart Pywell, the head teacher of St Stephen's Junior school

Among the heads is Stuart Pywell, of St Stephen's Junior School in Hales Drive, who says a double-edged sword of budget freezes and rising costs means he has had to cut staff numbers and scale back music, drama and sports classes for his 400 pupils.

"Like every school, we are in a difficult situation," he explains.

"For the last three years there hasn't been any increase in the amount the government has been giving to us, but we have had to pick up additional costs, like the increase in national insurance contributions, and increased pension contributions for the staff who work here.

"That's a 20% increase on our salary bill over the last three years, which is huge. And there's been an 8% reduction in the amount of money we have.

"The only way we can save money is by looking at our staffing ratios, so in the last year three members of staff who have left haven't been replaced."

St Stephen's Junior School
St Stephen's Junior School

Mr Pywell, who 18 months ago raised fears he would have to close his school due to not having the funds to fix a faulty boiler, fears the situation could worsen still, with a further two to three members of staff due to be lost this year.

"It's such a shame. We're no longer able to offer art, drama and music lessons to all of our children. We used to offer swimming to everyone, but can only offer that to one year group now," he continued.

"When you've having to make those savings year-on-year, there's only so much you can actually save."

The group hope that by securing a meeting with Mr Hinds, they can press him to ensure schools receive a bigger share of money when future government spending plans are drawn up.

But they were dealt a blow when after writing to the Secretary of State for a third time in January, they were told his diary was "very full". They are now asking for parents to help by writing to their MPs and the Department for Education.

"We just haven't heard anything. It's upsetting, because we don't feel valued," Mr Pywell continued.

"When they're not listening to the professionals, it's quite sad.

"Brexit has overshadowed everything. There hasn't been any strategic decision-making about education, or health, and this is a knock-on effect."

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