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Schools need more help to cover Covid costs, says Esterson

Schools need more help to cover Covid costs, says Esterson

by Malcolm Hindle (December 2020)

CALLS are being made for the government to ensure all extra costs incurred by Sefton Central schools due to the coronavirus pandemic are reimbursed.

Formby MP Bill  Esterson said headteachers in the constituency had told him their budgets had been ravaged by the extra costs relating to making schools Covid-secure.

The Sefton Association of Headteachers claims that there will be a £1.19m shortfall in schools funding in Sefton in the 2020/21 year.

Mr Esterson visited Trinity St Peter’s Primary School in Formby to discuss the issue with the head teacher Deborah Pringle and chair of governors Allan Jones.

Mr Esterson said: “Schools have gone above and beyond during the pandemic in order to stay open for key worker children, to re-open partially in June and then to reopen fully in a Covid-secure way in September.

“This obviously meant schools had to spend money they had not budgeted for. Many schools also lost income through the closure of their before and after-school clubs so this is a double whammy. Schools were under the impression that their Covid spending would be covered, yet after submitting their claims they’ve found only a fraction has been.

“At Trinity St Peter’s the extra costs were for items such as square desks because children all had to sit facing forward, rather than around circular desks, and for the obvious extra cleaning costs.

“For schools to be left with huge holes in their budget this year, at a time when school budgets have been cut to the bone already, is unacceptable.

“A school’s biggest costs are staffing, so in order to save that sort of money we’re going to see schools having to lose teaching assistants and even extra teachers, at a time when the children need support more than ever in order to catch up on the schooling they have missed.”Mr Esterson said catch-up and tutoring funding that had been promised was far less than needed.

The MP added: “Schools have been given about £70 per pupil in funding that is supposed to help children catch up what was missed in three months of schooling. £70 per pupil won’t even pay for a teaching assistant so how does the government really think that’s going to help children catch up?

“A National Tutoring Programme has also been promised, but this has amounted to £750m going into the pockets of private firms. Why can’t the government give this funding direct to schools as they are best placed to know how to spend it efficiently and effectively.

“I have asked the Education Secretary if he will pledge to reimburse all schools’ coronavirus-related costs. The Sefton Association of Headteachers has also written to the Education Minister Nick Gibb to raise these issues and I have urged him to respond.”

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