Calderdale head teacher who helped out in the kitchen speaks out about the covid cost on schools

A Calderdale head teacher has lifted the lid on increased budgetary costs and the added stresses and strains faced by schools during the coronavirus crisis, Ruth Dacey reports.

Sunday, 6th December 2020, 5:00 pm

The Government has failed to take into account variable infection rates when planning education budgets, head teachers across the region have said.

Extra support is needed to help schools in the region who face increased budgetary costs - from having to “backfill teaching staff,” to extra unforeseen cleaning bills.

It comes after no additional funding to cover covid costs was announced for schools as part of this week’s Spending Review announcement from the Government.

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Judy Shaw, the co-headteacher for Tuel Lane Infant School, Sowerby Bridge,

Rishni Sunak announced school funding in England will be increased by £2.2bn next year - sticking to the spending plan it first announced in August 2019 to boost the schools’ budget by an extra £7.1bn by 2022-23.

It comes as the latest Government figures show that school attendance dropped from 89 per cent to 86 per cent in the week ahead of the October half-term - and some areas in the North had attendance rates for secondaries as low as 61 per cent, whereas others in the South were close to the usual figure of 95 per cent.

Judy Shaw, the co-headteacher for Tuel Lane Infant School, Sowerby Bridge, and former president of the National Association of Head Teachers, has called for more support for rural schools across the region and their wider community, who have faced “significant” challenges.

Ms Shaw, who has been head for 15 years at the primary school which caters for 110 pupils, has called for extra funding and support to ‘small schools’ after reporting last week 11 of her team of 25 staff were having to isolate, with 30 children also off.

She said: “The pressure on all schools is immense at the moment but it’s particularly heightened in small schools where just one positive test can mean staff, resources and funding become scarce really quickly.

“My small school in West Yorkshire has been badly hit.”

The Calderdale based head also revealed one day this week she had to cover three other roles, alongside her leadership role, including collecting and serving school dinners and washing up after, supported admin tasks and providing support for a child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

She said: “In a small school, there’s one person for every job and every absence has to be covered by someone else who already has their own job to do.

There’s a lot of good will and people are doing other people’s jobs but how long can we rely on just goodwill? They are all very tired.

“I’m concerned about my staff, I’m concerned for people in leadership. I think they are covering lots of roles.

“On that particular day I had a lot of staff isolating - so I needed to step in.

“At about two o’clock I went back to my own desk to start my own job. And I’m not the only one.”

Ms Shaw added: “Just keeping our schools open and keeping education going and the welfare - is taking all our energy - it’s operational at the minute rather than strategic.”

The headteacher said extra funding was needed for ‘small schools’ across the region, who faced extra unplanned spending, due to costs added on due to the pandemic, on already “stretched budgets”.

She said: “Funding support from the government is needed.

“We haven’t got any wiggle room in our budgets at all… Small schools in particular are running on very very tight budgets.

“We plan our budgets well in advance for this financial year and for the next two - and all of this is unplanned spend, in already stretched budgets.

“The school isn’t in crisis at the minute - but it’s unsustainable in the long term.”

She added: “As a school we will go on as long as we possibly can - and each school will have its own breaking point.

“Unplanned spending needed to cover coronavirus costs is going to leave a whole in our budgets... Something will have to go at some point.

“We are talking about significant amounts of money - that we are not being supported with.

“There will have to be compromises along the way. Whether that be cuts in staffing or resources or other important elements like that.”

Gillian Keegan, the skills minister, said the government had provided £75,000 additional funding for “unavoidable costs that could not be met from their existing budgets”.

She added: "There will be a further opportunity later in the year for schools to claim for eligible costs that fell between March and July."