Gareth  Thomas, MP for Harrow West  urging Government Ministers for emergency school  funding to deal with COVID expenses
Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West urging Government Ministers for emergency school funding to deal with COVID expenses

Harrow West MP calls for urgent funding as average Secondary School costs estimated £720,600 due to COVID

In a Westminster Hall debate, Harrow West MP, Gareth Thomas, called on the Government for an urgent funding settlement for primary and secondary schools in Harrow.

Research conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research set out the scale of educational and financial challenges facing schools, based on interviews with almost 3,000 school leaders and teachers across more than 2,200 primary and secondary schools in England.

The report notes the difficulties in teaching remotely, with more than one quarter of pupils having limited or no access to IT at home—a particular challenge for schools serving the most deprived areas. Across the piece, almost 50% of teachers believed that their pupils needed intensive catch-up help, with the figure being even higher in the most deprived schools and in areas serving the highest proportion of pupils from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, such as schools in Harrow West. The report notes the need for additional IT equipment.

The NFER suggests that some primary schools could need up to an estimated £280,000 a year, and that an average secondary school could need up to an estimated £720,600 in order to operate in line with the Government’s requirements. Referencing an “excellent high school” in Harrow, the Harrow West MP explained the school was now burdened by “£175,000 in extra costs due to COVID”, listing “extra cleaning, extra teaching cover, longer hours needed for support staff, additional essential supplies, such as personal protective equipment and sanitiser, and significant digital investment” leading to the increase. Similarly, for primary schools in Harrow, Gareth referenced “over £60,000” in costs just for the summer term, in additional costs for “staffing to cover lessons where teachers or teaching assistants were shielding, and for site staff and office staff overtime to prepare for the reopening
of the school.”

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also describes the post-lockdown funding support for schools as “modest”, and goes on specifically to say, “Faster falls in spending per pupil over the last decade, slower increases under the National Funding Formula…widening of educational inequalities…all provide a case for greater targeting of funding to more deprived schools.”

The IFS also note “School spending per pupil in England fell by 9% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2019-20”, describing it as “the largest cut in over 40 years”, compared to the “increase in spending per pupil of over 60%” during the period of the last Labour Government.

Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West said:
“I am a former pupil of two Harrow schools and am now a parent of a child at one,
and I have many friends whose children are either at or have been at Harrow schools.
What happens in the borough’s schools and their funding is a lively concern in the
many conversations that I have as a constituency MP. Talking to headteachers and
others involved in the financial governance of our schools, I am concerned, first,
about the funding difficulties that covid is causing our schools; secondly, about the
limited financial support the Government have so far offered; and, thirdly, about the
difficult financial backdrop faced by schools, even before coronavirus became an
issue. I am also concerned about the increased difficulties that covid is causing those
children with special needs; the mental health challenges facing our young people,
which are being exacerbated as a result of covid; and what the feared increase in
child poverty will mean for schools and their finances.”

Video of Gareth Thomas MP during debate: debate:

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