Today, Preet Kaur Gill, MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, visited Lordswood Girls' School in Harborne which is set to spend £72,000 on measures designed to make it Covid-secure for its 1,000 staff and students by the end of the academic year. This is despite not having the money in its current budget nor any reserves to dip into, and not having received any additional funding from the government.
As a result of Covid-19, the school has had to implement a number of safety measures including increasing its cleaning regime, buying PPE, Perspex screens and hand sanitiser, adapting classrooms by removing and storing excess furniture to allow for socially-distanced learning and hiring outside toilet blocks to reduce the number of students using the same facilities.
The government guidance states, however, that no school will receive any additional funding to enable them to reopen, despite the large sums of money needed to make schools safe for students. Research from the National Foundation for Educational Research has found that schools could be spending hundreds of millions of pounds to address the costs of coronavirus in their schools, extra expenses the government expects schools to meet out of their own budgets.
Government figures show that more than 14,000 schools have submitted a claim for ‘exceptional costs’ to the Department for Education related to additional Covid cleaning and safety measures since schools closed in March.
For students unable to return to school for health or other reasons during lockdown, schools have had to rely on online or hybrid learning, however, the government failed to meet its own target to deliver 230,000 laptops to pupils by the end of June, locking many young people out from accessing education. Lordswood Girls’ School only received 75 laptops during lockdown, which the school said was “too little, too late”.
Jane Gotschel, the headteacher at Lordswood Girls’ School, said:
“We were really pleased to be able to welcome back our students in September, however putting in place measures to protect our school community has had a significant impact on our budget, especially without any reserves we could use.
“We will have spent in excess of £70,000 by the end of this academic year to make our school safe for our students and staff, money that is not included in existing budgets, yet schools have not received any additional funding from the government to help make them Covid-secure.
“The Chancellor is providing support for businesses while schools are being side-lined, despite schools playing an equally vital role in rebuilding our economy and ensuring our country can go back to work.”
After visiting Lordswood Girls’ School to see the measures they have put in place, Preet said:
“Schools, like Lordswood Girls’ School, have stepped up to make sure their students can return to the classroom, but they need more support from the government.
“Budgets will be pushed to breaking point if schools are forced to meet the costs of the coronavirus themselves, with many looking outside of their budgets to find the money needed to make schools a safe place for staff and students.
“Schools are still feeling the impact of more than a decade of cuts to their budgets, so being forced to meet the costs of making their sites Covid-secure is adding yet further pressure to already stretched budgets. The Chancellor must not go back on his word, and should do whatever it takes to support schools in these exceptional times.”