Cash from parents is ‘vital’ for rural primary schools, headteacher warns
Financial support from parents is becoming “vital” for the future of small rural schools, a Suffolk headteacher has said.
Elaine Burdiss, headteacher of 70-pupil Elmsett Church of England VC Primary School, which is celebrating retaining its ‘good’ Ofsted rating after a recent inspection, said primary schools are increasingly seeking fundraising help from PTAs.
It comes as schools continue to be gripped by tightening budgets and rising costs. Some headteachers across the country are asking parents to set up direct debits.
In the Ofsted report, Mrs Burdiss was praised for how funding is used in PE to employ a specialist sports coach “who teaches to a high quality”.
Nicholas Rudman, Ofsted inspector, said Mrs Burdiss leads the school “with commitment and determination”. Parents say there is a “real family feel” and new systems to improve English and maths are having a “positive impact”. Some 64% of students achieved the expected standards in both subjects in the 2017 SATs tests.
The report added: “Music and French are clear strengths of the school. French is extremely well taught by a specialist learning support assistant. Pupils learn to converse confidently, using a wide range of phrases and developing good French accents.
“The weekly ukulele lessons enable all the pupils in key stage 2 to experience high-quality music provision. Outcomes are high because the tutor’s strong subject knowledge is communicated in a lively and engaging manner. Pupils are able to play a variety of cords on their ukuleles; they are developing a strong music vocabulary and thoroughly enjoy their lessons.”
Asked what challenges currently face small rural primary schools, Mrs Burdiss said: “Other than money, it’s staffing. It is not teacher recruitment and retention. We have got a very stable staff. But if we want to do anything extra like enrichment, sometimes we don’t have the money.
“But we raise funds through our PTA and obviously parent contributions. If you ask any headteacher, you will find that across every school. A lot of the nicer things are having to be curbed because of the financial situation.
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“We ask our PTA to try to raise money to help us replace things like library books, to help us with cooking in school, any groundwork like a wildlife area – things like that.
“Contributions from the parents and the PTA are vital to the school, with everyday life. It’s been in the news lately that schools are asking for voluntary contributions from parents. But our parents are happy to support the PTA and come in and help. We have a very good relationship with them and they are very supportive. I think this support will become more common.”