HEADTEACHERS in Copeland have issued a desperate plea urging people to join the fight against funding cuts to education.

A letter was sent to parents and carers at 18 primary schools warning the Government is giving a “misleading, over optimistic and often inaccurate picture” on schools funding, after it emerged £1 million had been cut already in the borough’s schools alone.

The headteachers of schools including Bookwell, St Bees, St Patrick’s Catholic Primary and Frizington County Primary schools, are urging people to sign a petition to lobby the Government to increase school funding.

The letter, which was sent ahead of half term, says: “House of Commons data, published by the Government earlier this week, indicates that from 2014 to 2019, school funding for our schools has been cut by £1 million for Copeland which is equal to an average of -£255 per pupil across our schools. As headteachers, collectively we are saying this is not good enough.”

For example, funding cuts at St Bees school amount to £47,175, which is the equivalent of one teacher and one teaching assistant.

The schools say budget cuts mean cuts to the service they provide, including teaching and non-teaching staff; support for the most vulnerable pupils; small group work for children who need additional support; repairs to school buildings.

Sue Sanderson, the county council’s cabinet member for schools and learning, said she was very concerned about the cuts.

She said: “The pressures are growing. We can’t control the demand for support for pupils with autism or with social, emotional and mental health needs. We have a legal responsibility towards them but at the end of the day the schools are underfunded.”

She added the Government was working with outdated figures on special needs pupils.

Leaders say the central government grant for state schools has not kept pace with the rise in costs since 2010. But the Department for Education said that since 2017 every local authority has been given more money for every pupil in every school. In 2019/2020 it said Cumbria is receiving £285m in total, an increase of 3.2 per cent per pupil compared to 2017/2018.

But coun Sanderson said the schools were now playing catch-up and were left dealing with a loss of around 8% and increasing costs.

She added: “My concern is for the children. This is their education and we worry about what will happen in the end. I was a headteacher, I know what it’s like to deal with a school budget, this is the worse I’ve ever seen it.”

Parliament is due to debate the petition on March 4. To sign the petition visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/232220