Suffolk schools hit by coronavirus 'in desperate need of financial support'
Suffolk schools hit hardest by Covid-19 are in desperate need of financial support as additional costs are stretching already-tight budgets to breaking point, it has emerged.
Among the chief additional costs are supply teachers to cover those who are ill or self-isolating, deep cleans, hand sanitiser stations, floor stickers and signs, large quantities of PPE and subscriptions to online learning programmes.
Income streams such as hiring out football pitches and halls has also dried up.
The issue emerged during Thursday’s Health and Wellbeing Board gathering of health chiefs, where Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education, Mary Evans, confirmed it was making the case for those headteachers.
“We do take it very seriously,” she said.
“I am aware of a special school that made contact with us over the weekend where they have staff self-isolating, that puts them under a shortage of staff, they need to bring in supply staff and they haven’t really got the budget for that for a long period.
“It’s very worrying for them because for any school it is disruptive if supply staff have to come in who the children don’t know.
“With the special schools where routine is very important it makes it even more disruptive.
“In traditional school days when no lockdown was required, or no social distancing is required as it is now, if there was a shortage of staff you could configure classrooms around differently and teach in large groups.
“That is obviously not possible now, so we are aware of the challenges to our schools and colleges and supporting them in a number of ways.”
Mrs Evans said she was in contact with the county’s MPs to push the case for support funding with the Government, but was also lobbying through the F40 Group – a collection of the country’s 40 lowest-funded education authorities.
A letter by the F40 Group to the Department for Education in August said that the reduced teaching numbers was putting more strain on those available to work, and said that “short and long-term funding and support measures need to be in place to support schools”.
It also highlighted that some nurseries were not eligible for grants and “without financial help, they may close”.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk which led a detailed survey on Covid-19’s impact on mental health for families and youngsters, which included responses from 700 school staff,said: “Schools are struggling financially, nationally and across the county, so much so that any financial support to address Covid-related situations isn’t sufficient
“I am really concerned that by the end of the year we are going to have a great many schools that are going to be in the red potentially, which really can’t be allowed to happen.”