Thousands demand funding for school Covid costs

Petition started by primary head receives 15,000 signatures in a week, meaning government must respond
10th November 2020, 11:13am

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Thousands demand funding for school Covid costs

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/thousands-demand-funding-school-covid-costs
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A petition calling for the government to reimburse schools for the costs they have incurred due to Covid-19 has passed 15,000 signatures in just one week, meaning the government must formally respond.

The parliamentary petition, started by a primary school headteacher in Stockport, follows warnings from the NAHT school leaders' union that schools have faced "unanticipated additional costs" owing to Covid-19, including additional cleaning costs, extra handwashing stations and hand sanitiser as well as ventilation systems in classrooms, the provision of PPE including face coverings and the costs associated with setting up remote learning for pupils at home.

James Bowen, director of policy at the NAHT, said: "School budgets were already incredibly tight. The government's refusal to recognise the financial difficulties schools are now facing due to Covid-19 means that not only is money being taken away from children's education and wellbeing, it could push some schools over the edge financially."

The petition, which remains open and continues to gain signatures, has now reached a threshold that means the government must respond. It calls on the government to:

  • Reimburse schools' exceptional costs associated with Covid-19 measures.
  • Reimburse schools' lost income from Covid-19, eg from rentals and lettings of buildings.
  • Guarantee reimbursements will be paid directly to schools for financial years 2020-21 and 2021-22, as required.

Jim Nicholson, headteacher of Mellor Primary School in Stockport, who started the petition, said his own "small school" had an increased staffing cost of approximately £9,000 and that costs for soap, hand sanitiser and paper towels has increased sixfold during the first half of the autumn term, while at the same time he had lost approximately £29,000 in income streams.

He said: "We can't understand why the government hasn't stepped in to help schools with the financial impact of lockdown the way they have with other businesses.

"Schools' budgets were set before the outbreak Covid-19 and were already as tight as they could possibly be. The costs we're now facing are totally unanticipated - we couldn't have imagined these measures would suddenly be necessary.

"The worry is that every pound we are now having to divert to pay for safety measures and the costs of just keeping schools open is a pound we can't spend on pupils' education and wellbeing. Just as children really need every possible boost to make up for the disruption they've faced this year, they are being shortchanged by the government."

A recent NAHT survey found that, in just the first few weeks of term, schools spent an average £8,017 implementing the safety measures required by government guidance.

The same NAHT survey found that schools lost an average £9,755 in income in the first few weeks of term, on top of an average £15,915 over the summer.

The rules of parliamentary petitions state that, at 10,000 signatures, a petition gets a response from the government, while at 100,000 signatures a petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

A DfE spokesperson said: "On average, costs to schools to become Covid-secure will have been a relatively small proportion of their core funding for each pupil, which for secondary schools has increased to a minimum of £5,150, the first year of the biggest increase to core school funding in a decade.

"On top of the core funding schools are receiving, and continued to receive throughout the pandemic, we provide pupil premium funding worth £2.4 billion each year to support the most disadvantaged pupils. Our £1 billion Covid catch-up fund has provision both for additional tutoring targeted at the most disadvantaged, and flexible funding for schools to use to help all their pupils make up for lost education."

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