True Vision

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Inside the School Cuts Crisis

Inside the School Cuts Crisis
Back to ‘Our Films’
29 minutes
Amy Richardson
Erica Jenkin
Executive Producer:
Brian Woods

In England, school funding has dropped by 8% in real terms since 2010. But austerity has forced schools to play an ever increasing role in their pupils’ lives, providing vital support services far beyond just education. 

The government has promised more funding for schools, but will it be enough and will it go to schools that need it most? 

We follow the pupils and teaching staff at North Denes Primary, a 360 strong  primary school in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, during what head teacher, Debbie Whiting describes as ‘the hardest term’ of her career. A drastic cut in her state funded per pupil entitlement from £3100 to £2700 per pupil, as well as rising outgoing costs, including mandatory pay increases, have left her having to lose a fifth of her much needed staff over the course of one school term. 

This includes 1 teacher, 5 teaching assistants, and 7 support staff. Everyone knows the cuts are coming, it’s just a question of who will have to go. 

North Denes serves one of the most deprived areas in the U.K, located in the catchment area of Yarmouth North the Nelson wards where nearly half of children live in poverty. Research shows that children from deprived backgrounds are 18 months behind their peers in educational attainment by the time they finish their GCSEs. Schools like North Denes receive special deprivation funding to narrow this gap, which head teacher Debbie has used to help set up a Well-Being team, a dedicated team of staff who work to support not only its pupils, but also their families. This has included setting up a food bank, which now helps several families a week. They also run a clothes and baby bank, where local parents help volunteer.

Supporting not only the children, but also their families has paid off. Since the establishment of the Well Being team, the school has seen North Denes pupils’ academic performance rise above the national average in reading, writing and maths. The school is now ranked ‘Good’ by Ofsted, with its leadership ranked as ‘Outstanding’. 

But cuts have to be made somewhere…

We encounter Teaching Assistants like Olivia, whose jobs are at risk, despite her class needing crucial support, especially in helping children like Lucas, who is 5 and has autism so struggles with being around the rest of the class. 

Nearly a quarter of North Denes’ pupils have Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND), well above the national average. The school receives SEN funding to help support these pupils, but this isn’t enough to cover the one-to-one support staff like Tracey, whose main focus is to support Ellison, aged 5, who has cerebral palsy. 

Ellison is thriving in mainstream school, but if cuts to one-to-one support staff are made, Tracey will have to go, leaving teachers and teaching assistants to take on the task of one-to-one support, whilst supporting an already busy classroom. 

Other services are also at risk, including the schools’ library, after school activities and it’s After School club, a lifeline for working parents. If it closes, Year 5 pupil Lucy may have to move schools and leave her friends behind. 

With intimate access, the film follows the staff and pupils at North Denes over this challenging term. It explores the lasting consequences of funding cuts on not only staff but the very pupils for whom extra support is desperately needed.

Headteacher Debbie on BBC Look East Late

Headteacher Debbie on BBC Look East Evening news