Thursday, August 24, 2017
School funding cuts ‘could damage children’s mental health’

School funding cuts ‘could damage children’s mental health’

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Councillors have warned that school cuts could damage children's mental health

Cuts to school budgets could lead to London’s children developing long-term mental health problems, town hall chiefs have warned.

Mental health champions from across the capital have warned of the potential “damage” caused by government plans to redistribute schools funding.

More than a dozen senior councillors have signed a letter to the Prime Minister Theresa May urging her to scrap the controversial National Funding Formula.

The signatories included local authority figures from the Conservative Party, as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The letter warned that “drastic” reductions in school funding could hamper classroom efforts to improve children’s mental health.

It said: “As elected representatives seeking to improve psychological wellbeing, we welcomed your mental health speech of January 9 in which you rightly emphasised early intervention for children and young people.

“Of course, much of that early intervention takes place in schools, with children learning social and academic skills, protective of mental health, whilst being able to get pastoral care including counselling.

“Those lessons and care can only be imparted by skilled professionals and with around 70 per cent of schools budgets spent on front line staff, that requires the right funding.

“It is why we are so concerned about the National Funding Formula proposals, which are set to drastically reduce schools funding in the areas of greatest need.”

The councillors said London would be among the regions worst hit by the proposals, which have been designed to redistribute schools funding more evenly across the whole country.

They warned that the poorest communities tended to have the highest prevalence of mental illness, making them the biggest “losers” in the funding shake-up.

In one borough, Tower Hamlets, the councillors said schools would lose more than £500 per pupil every year.

The letter added: “These cuts will significantly reduce the ability of schools to provide a decent education, support the healthy development of children and adequately look after their pastoral and academic needs.

“We ask you to look again at cutting the schools budgets for the poorest communities which will damage the mental health of coming generations, placing a greater burden on public services and our economy.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “School funding is at its highest level on record, at more than £40 billion in 2016-17, and we have protected the core schools budget in real terms since 2010.

“But the system for distributing that funding across the country is unfair, opaque and outdated.

“Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode.

“As the Prime Minister announced last month, we want to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff to ensure children and young people get the help and support they need and deserve.

“This is backed by an additional £1.4 billion government investment to transform the mental health support available.”

Signatories to the letter included:

Cllr Ed Davie – Lambeth

Cllr Catherine Faulks – Kensington and Chelsea

Cllr Simon Wales – Sutton

Cllr Ian Beckett – Harlow

Cllr Paulette Hamilton – Birmingham

Cllr Wayne Blackburn – Pendle

Cllr Paul Cummins – Sefton

Cllr Adam Wilkinson – Calderdale

Cllr Amy Whitelock Gibbs – Tower Hamlets

Cllr Helen Dennis – Southwark

Cllr Alan De’Ath – Hammersmith and Fulham

Cllr Jonathan Slater – Lewisham

Cllr Neil Wilson – Newham

Cllr Dr Abdullah Gulaid – Ealing

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School funding cuts ‘could damage children’s mental health’