School asks BBC Children in Need to cover funding gap

East London primary seeks charity???s help with pastoral care after budget cuts

Ian Bennett, the headteacher of Downshall primary school in London
Ian Bennett, the headteacher of Downshall primary: ???To have no pastoral support is awful.??? Photograph: Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

A cash-strapped school has turned to BBC Children in Need for funding to support disadvantaged pupils.

Downshall primary school in Ilford, east London, which has a large proportion of children from disadvantaged backgrounds ??? 89% of whom have English as a second language ??? has applied to the charity for funding to pay for pastoral care for three years.

The school has been forced to drop its team of two pastoral support workers because of budget constraints. It is also having to cut back on reading support assistants and specialist PE staff.

Downshall???s headteacher, Ian Bennett, said: ???We are looking to charities to fund the school. I???ve never done it before. To have no pastoral support is awful. To lose two reading support workers is criminal. These children are not going to get the support they need.???

A second school in Ilford, Mayespark primary, is reported to have already won a grant from Children in Need to support pupils who have missed out on nurture in their early years. The school???s headteacher, Christine Lamb, told the Ilford Recorder: ???Funding from BBC Children in Need allows us to support children at the school further and develop our nurture project.??? Lamb was approached for comment.

School funding has climbed up the political agenda in recent months, with reports of schools closing early, parents being asked for donations, teachers using their own money to buy basic supplies, and headteachers taking on additional roles including catering, safeguarding and cleaning to save money.

A Guardian investigation recently revealed more than 1,000 schools across England had turned to crowdfunding websites and wishlists to raise money, with many appealing for pencils, glue and textbooks.

Allan Hickie, a charity and education specialist at the accountancy firm UHY, agreed budgets were increasingly tight and schools were looking at ???ever more inventive ways of generating additional income???.

Hickie, who works with academies rather than council-maintained schools, said he was aware a number were approaching some of the large grant-giving charities and similar organisations for funding. ???The application process is quite time-consuming for some of these, however, which can be prohibitive apart from where large amounts of funding is available,??? he said.

Education ministers, under pressure from MPs of all political persuasions, have promised school funding will be a priority in the forthcoming spending review. It has become a key issue in the Conservative leadership election.