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Parents ‘frightened for their kids’ as schools in Oxfordshire face cost of living crisis


Sep 14, 2022

PARENTS in Oxfordshire are “frightened for themselves and for their children”, a headteacher has warned.

Sue Vermes, headteacher at Rose Hill Primary School, in Oxford, explained how the pandemic and the cost of living crisis have impacted her pupils in a recent interview with the Guardian.

She said that when she took over from her predecessor, the fabric of the school building, which had been allowed to deteriorate in expectation of imminent demolition, was “one of the worst in the county”.

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Schools across the country are dealing with the effects of 10 years of austerity, followed by a pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.

Ms Vermes told the Guardian that the result was “a lot of fear.”

“People are frightened for themselves and for their children,” she added.

Rose Hill Primary serves about 300 children, with more than half qualifying for funding for disadvantaged children.

Ms Vermes was also asked by the BBC’s World at One to talk about home learning in January last year, during the pandemic.

She said: “They asked me if families had access to laptops. I said the government had generously given us 14, and we had 150 families in need of them.”

Last month, the chief of a group of Oxfordshire schools told the Oxford Mail that classes could be axed and school staff may lose their jobs due to the rising cost of energy bills.

Rachael Warwick, CEO of Ridgeway Education Trust, which oversees Didcot Girls' School, St Birinus School and Didcot Sixth Form – all in Didcot, and Sutton Courtenay Primary School, near Abingdon, said her gas bills were due to rise by 525 per cent next month and her electricity bills by 354 per cent.

Despite core schools funding increasing by £1.5 billion in 2023/4, school leaders across the country have said the settlement does not take into account the "huge inflationary pressures" schools face.

Mrs Warwick said the trust currently spends £250,000 on gas and electricity each year which will increase to £1.150 million each year.

The trust's reserves are currently healthy, she said, but warned these will be "wiped out" in the next year if the Government fails to provide further financial support.

"The extra funds are not going to touch the side of the issue for us," she said. "There needs to be urgent financial intervention from central Government.”

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Paul James, CEO of River Learning Trust which operates 26 secondary and primary schools in Oxfordshire – including the Cherwell School in Summertown, Swan School in Marston, Oxford Academy in Littlemore and Gosford Hill School in Kidlington – also agreed that the Government "needs to act" to make sure schools are properly funded.

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This story was written by Anna Colivicchi, she joined the team this year and covers health stories for the Oxfordshire papers.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Anna.colivicchi@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @AnnaColivicchi