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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Ben Lynch

'Outstanding' West London school must raise £300,000 or slash GCSE subjects, parents told

An ‘outstanding’ West London school may be forced to reduce the number of subjects taught to students and increase class sizes due to hiked costs and decreased Government funding.

In a letter sent to parents and carers, seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Lady Margaret School’s headteacher warned of the financial difficulties facing the provision, and wrote that without additional income, it will be “impossible” to continue providing the current level of education.

Headteacher Elisabeth Stevenson separately told the LDRS that while the wish is to continue giving students the best education possible, “along with other schools, this is becoming more and more of a challenge”.

Lady Margaret School is an all-girls secondary comprehensive academy in Parsons Green. It was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted following the watchdog’s latest visit in November 2023, and was also named London Comprehensive School of the Year 2024 in The Sunday Times’ Parent Power Schools Guide.

In the letter distributed earlier this year, Ms Stevenson warned of a series of challenges Lady Margaret is facing due to “increased costs and decreased Government funding”.

She wrote that while the school is grateful for donations received from parents and carers to-date, it needs to raise an additional £300,000 to balance the budget “to zero” by the end of the next academic year, August 2025.

Ms Stevenson added similar sums will be required the following year to offset the higher costs of staffing and running the site “due to the real terms drop in Governmental funding”.

If not, measures such as cutting the number of subjects offered to GCSE and A-level students, increasing class sizes and reducing extra-curricular opportunities would be among those which would need to be considered to balance the books.

In response to queries from parents on how much to donate, the letter notes a minimum of £60 per month per student is required to bridge the gap between Government funding and the school’s costs.

Acknowledging not all can donate that much, Ms Stevenson added that for those who can support financially, “your help is critical to allow us to maintain our education”.

In emails to the LDRS, Ms Stevenson clarified that due to the school being in the midst of finalising its budget for next year, it is not currently certain as to what its in-year deficit will be.

On the appeal for donations, she said: “We have stated clearly in the letter that we understand that some parents are not in a position to donate to the school for a range of reasons and we are always sensitive to this. It is really important to us that no parent feels that they have to give money to the school.

“In terms of the impact of decreases in funding, we face exactly the same challenges as other schools. We want to continue to give our students the best education possible and, along with other schools, this is becoming more and more of a challenge.”

Greg Hands, Conservative MP for the Chelsea and Fulham parliamentary seat since its creation in 2010 and the party’s candidate on July 4, defended the Tory Government’s spending on schools.

“Under this Conservative government, school funding has been boosted to the highest level ever in real terms per pupil, reaching over £60 billion in 2024-25, delivering world-class education our children deserve,” he said.

“School standards across the country are up from 68 per cent of schools being rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ under Labour to 90 per cent today and children in England named ‘Best in the West’ for reading.”

Mr Hands added his own daughter attended Lady Margaret, and that he has campaigned throughout his time in Parliament “on behalf of our local schools”.

The risk at the forthcoming election, he said, is that Labour’s planned removal of private schools’ VAT exemption “will choke places at our in-demand ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ state schools, leading to larger class sizes and lower school standards.

Labour are playing politics with education and it’s pupils who will pay the price.”

Ben Coleman, Deputy Leader at Hammersmith and Fulham Council and Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Chelsea and Fulham, said: “The Lady Margaret School letter highlights the damage done by years of Government underfunding to our brilliant state schools, threatening resources, class sizes and even the subjects they can offer.

“A Labour Government will give these schools the support they need to maintain high standards, starting by recruiting 6,500 new expert teachers in key, understaffed subjects.”

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