West Sussex teachers not claiming higher salaries due to school spending pressures

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Some teachers in West Sussex have not been claiming the salary to which they are entitled because they know their schools can’t afford it.

The news was shared during a select committee meeting at County Hall, Chichester, where members were discussing the spending pressures faced by schools.

Tom Moore, who has been head of Bury Primary, near Pulborough, for almost three years, said some staff chose not to claim their upper pay scale ‘because they know the pressures we’re under’.

Mr Moore added: “That’s their choice. They’re doing that because they’ve got such a buy-in to what a small school offers – more than just the teaching but also the value it offers to the rest of the community.”

There was a similar story from Maria Roberts, chair of governors at Castlewood Primary, in Southwater, who said: “We too have staff who are deliberately not asking for [upper pay scales] because they know the schools can’t afford it.”

In addition, Ms Roberts said her school was ‘relying on grants and parental contributions for the basics’.

The committee saw the results of a school funding survey, completed by 90 schools across West Sussex, more than half of which said they would not be able to balance their budgets in 2020/21.

Some 40 per cent said they were asking parents to contribute to the costs of running their school, with more and more asking for help to pay for essentials.

Committee vice-chairman Kirsty Lord (Lib Dem, Hassocks & Burgess Hill South) suggested the survey should include details of the teachers who were also forking out on the basics.

She said: “I know teachers who are paying money out of their own pockets to fund resources for use in their classroom.

“It’s really important that we bring that out in public and give schools the opportunity to tell us what their teachers are having to do to fund some of this gap.”

Members also looked at the government’s recent announcement that there would be an extra £7.1bn for the country’s schools by 2022/23.

While the money was recognised as a ‘positive step’ by all, they were reminded by Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, in Horsham, the driving force behind the WorthLess? campaign, that it would do little more than take the funding levels back up to what they were ten years ago.

A major concern raised by Mr White and others was that the extra money did not take into account the plan to increase starting salaries for teachers by 2022/23.

He said: “There is real concern that the government will expect future salary increases to be paid for from the current funding announcement.

“That is not what was campaigned for.”

Another concern was the reduction from £150k-£110k of the lump sum received by all primary schools.

The sum represented the minimum fixed costs of running a school and made up a large part of the budget for smaller schools. Reducing it set alarm bells ringing.

Summing up, chairman David Barling (Con, Bramber Castle) said: “In broad terms, we welcome the increase in funding – but with caveats. Those caveats are that the lump sum reduction causes a real problem for small schools.

“Secondly, the increase in teacher salaries, while very welcome to the individual teacher, also puts an increased pressure on the school managers.”

Mr Barling called on Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education and skills, to write to West Sussex MPs and the government to share those concerns.