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School leaders gather in Stafford to discuss funding crisis

One hundred head teachers and school leaders from Staffordshire and Stoke are gathering to share their concerns over school funding.

They will be meeting today at the Stafford Rangers Football ground in the county town, which has been organised by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT).

Local MPs, councillors and union members have been invited in order to address the concerns of their constituents and the schools representing thousands of families and children that they serve, however, according to the NAHT only Jeremy Lefroy, the Conservative MP Stafford has so far agreed to attend.

The event comes one week after thousands of parents and children demonstrated in Westminster and dozens of other UK locations about the crisis in funding for pupils with special needs and disabilities.

The government has recently been reprimanded for the fifth time by the UK Statistics Authority for quoting school funding figures in a misleading way.

The House of Commons Library, which gives impartial information to MPs, calculates that in the West Midlands, funding has fallen by £256 per pupil since 2013.

The NAHT say that in Mr Lefroy’s constituency of Stafford, the fall is greater, with per-pupil funding now £318 less than in 2013.

The NAHT has recently written to all English MPs with the Child Poverty Action Group detailing a dozen examples of the impact of austerity on pupils.

Two of the examples from the West Midlands say:

“Children are more aware of their parents’ money and troubles – it worries them.”

“This year has seen additional strain and emotional distress for children as we have seen families being evicted and made homeless. This has not been the case in my 20 years at the school but in the last 2 months 5 families have been impacted upon in this manner.

"This has caused significant distress and upset for the children.”

Emily Proffitt, a head teacher and the NAHT National Executive member for Staffordshire said: “Children don't get a vote, so it is our duty to speak up for them.

"The government is gambling with their futures. Many pupils face a double whammy as austerity bites at home, and cuts to school budgets narrow their opportunities.

"It is appalling that our parliamentary representatives, voted in by their constituents, are so reluctant listen to our concerns.”

Paul Whiteman, NAHT’s general secretary, said: “School budgets are at breaking point. Government ministers are now freely admitting that something must change.

"We need to see immediate relief from the Treasury and a long-term commitment to increased funding for schools and colleges in the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

NAHT’s calculations show that the Staffordshire and Stoke region has seen cuts of almost £142million whilst pupil numbers have risen by more than 50,000.

Local services have been cut and school leaders are making impossible choices in order to balance their budgets.

NAHT’s latest figures show that more than four fifths (86%) of schools have reduced the hours or numbers of teaching assistants to make their budgets balance.

More than a third (37%) said they have had to reduce the number or hours of teaching staff.

The NAHT says that the funding summit demonstrates the strength of feeling amongst Staffordshire and Stoke schools.

Mrs Proffitt concluded: “We are standing together with one message for the government. We cannot and will not cut any more. Our schools have suffered enough. School cuts have left us speechless. But we will not be silent.”

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