Shirebrook Academy Principle: "Budget cuts are being felt keenly"

Mark Cottingham, principle of Shirebrook Academy
Mark Cottingham, principle of Shirebrook Academy

An academy principal has criticised government funding cuts - saying schools end up being a ‘frontline service’.

Mark Cottingham, principle of Shirebrook Academy on Common Lane, Shirebrook, said that cuts to education and social care budgets are being ‘felt keenly’.

He said: “Shirebrook Academy is one of the lucky ones - I know of many headteachers having to make redundancies.

“Education budgets were not exactly generous before, but schools now really have to tighten their belts.”

Mr Cottingham commented after new figures show education spending has been slashed by more than £7bn since 2011.

The Independent conducted a survey that revealed the extent of the crisis.

The poll of 2,000 headteachers showed that 72 percent of heads are facing a deficit this school year, and four in five teachers are using their own money to support schoolchildren amid funding pressures.

Mr Cottingham said: “Staff are so careful with resources, such as photocopying and using older textbooks.

“Schools end up picking up the slack from cutbacks to social funding, such as social work and mental health.

“We have a charity fund which we used to provide breakfasts for free school meal students in the run-up to Christmas.

“Schools do things like this to make up for the gap in social care and support, as local authorities budgets are cut, and Universal Credit is introduced.”

The Shirebrook Academy is one of the lucky schools.

Thanks to a good contingency plan and a new, efficient school building, staffing does not have to be cut like so many other schools.

“The government are insisting money has been spent on education, which is true if you look at pounds and pence.

“However, if you take into account inflation and a rise in the number of pupils, in real terms, schools are worse off.” Adds Mr Cottingham.

“Shirebrook Academy has less than 850 students, and you get to know those students well.

“As 70 to 80 percent of a school’s budget goes on staffing, a bigger budget would mean more staff, and a personalised level of teaching.”