Wakefield school leaders say funding issues could lead them to close twice a week

Warning: Headteachers in Wakefield have penned a letter to parents. Pictured Ray Henshaw
Warning: Headteachers in Wakefield have penned a letter to parents. Pictured Ray Henshaw

Headteachers have warned that financial cutbacks could lead to classrooms being shut for up to half of the week.

School leaders in Wakefield have together penned a letter to parents, detailing the “significant implications” of school funding cuts, including fewer teachers and increased class sizes.

They also warn that the curriculum choice will be scaled back, support for students with mental health problems and special educational needs will be reduced, there will be less investment in facilities and resources to support lessons and fewer school trips.

Signed ‘Wakefield Headteachers’, the letter is the result of a meeting of the Wakefield Secondary Headteachers Standing Committee, made up of leaders from more than 25 schools across the district.

Member Ray Henshaw, principal of Minsthorpe Community College, said: “What we wanted to make clear is it is not one individual school or our own individual position. It was all of us sounding our collective alarm at the way things are going.”

Mr Henshaw said the nation was in the grip of an education crisis and parents needed to be aware.

“The cuts in education are every bit as severe as in the health service but you underestimate them because you don’t have patients sitting in trolleys in corridors,” he said.

“What we have to do is create bigger class sizes and cut classes that we can’t afford to run. It will take five to seven years for the impact to be seen, whereas in hospitals you can see it immediately. I think that’s the problem.

“Within a year schools could go to three-day weeks. Some schools are already finishing half an hour earlier, because they can’t afford to put teachers in front of the kids.

“There is an education crisis. We can’t recruit teachers, there are less teachers being trained. It’s a massive problem that really has to be addressed.”

In the letter, the headteachers argue against the government’s claims that funding for schools is at its highest ever level. They state that in reality schools have been funding on a ‘flat cash’ basis for a number of years, meaning that funding per pupil has stood still while costs have increased.

The cost increases have been put down to higher contributions to national insurance and teachers’ pensions, the introduction of the national living wage and the apprenticeship levy.

An increase of £1 million in the cost of providing educational support for children with special educational needs and disabilities in Wakefield and the impact caused by the reduction of the Education Support Grant have also been blamed.