Labour blasts 'national disgrace' as cash-strapped schools ask parents for donations
Labour has accused ministers of presiding over a "national disgrace" after it emerged that schools are being forced to ask parents for hand-outs to fund teachers' salaries and essential repairs.
An investigation by The Times revealed that a wave of cash-strapped state schools have asked parents to reach into their own pockets to help pay for classroom basics.
Around 700 schools responded to a series of Freedom of Information requests lodged by the newspaper, with more than 200 of those saying they had asked parents for donations in the past year - with one asking for up to £1,200 per child each year.
One in seven of the schools that had sought money from parents said they had either completely cut or pared back music lessons or started asking parents to pay for them.
Meanwhile around one in five said they had either reduced mental health support services or were struggling to keep up with rising demand.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner seized on the findings and said the Government should "hang its head in shame".
"A whole generation of young people are being failed because of cuts that have slashed education funding," the Labour frontbencher added.
"It is a national disgrace that our schools are begging parents to help them cover basic supplies in the one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
"It will be a generation of children who will pay the price for Tory austerity."
A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We have protected the core schools budget overall in real terms since 2010, and put an additional £1.3 billion into core schools funding across 2018-19 and 2019-20, over and above plans set out at the last spending review.
"While there is more money going into our schools than ever before, we do recognise the budgeting challenges schools face and that we are asking them to do more.
"That’s why we have introduced a wide range of practical support to help schools and head teachers, and their local authorities make the most of every pound, ensuring resources are being used in the best possible way to improve outcomes for children."
The investigation comes after MPs on Monday debated a petition signed by more than 104,000 teachers, support staff and parents concerned about school funding.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank has estimated that schools have seen an 8% real-terms cut since 2009-10 as funding increases have been offset by rising costs and pupil numbers.
Labour MP Liz Twist told the debate that schools had been forced to cut back on teachers, support staff, classroom resources and even asbestos management as a result of financial pressures.
Her Labour colleague Maria Eagle meanwhile read testimony from one headteacher who said: "I’ve never experienced a time when the range of needs has been so complex and the financial support so thin."
And Conservative former education minister Tim Loughton said: "We need to have fair funding now; it is a false economy for our children if we do not."