Now A School Has To Seek Help From The Charity Sector To Be Able To Function

**" It’s just ridiculous " : why a London school is seeking charity help,

Downshall primary is a success in a deprived community. But cuts to vital care services are taking a toll.**


Ian Bennett has been headteacher of Downshall primary school in Ilford, east London, for 16 years. In that time he has seen council support and funding ebb away, as poverty and deprivation among the families his school serves has grown. The result is that the needs of his pupils have become greater, but he worries that as cuts bite he will be able to help them less.

Downshall (motto Dream, Persevere, Succeed) is a large, popular primary school serving a mixed, disadvantaged community. On Tuesday morning, the children are playing boisterously in the playground. The rain has held off, toys are scattered and sunflowers are growing apace in their pots.

The school is rated “good” by Ofsted, praised particularly for the way in which it nurtures all aspects of pupils’ development. The children are predominantly from minority ethnic backgrounds with 3% white British pupils and they make strong progress in their time at Downshall. Behind the scenes, however, the school is struggling to make ends meet.

“Initially when I started here there was strong council support,” says Bennett. “There were very good systems in place to support the school with development, special needs, safeguarding and curriculum.”

But with government cuts to council funding and growing pressure on education budgets, Bennett is being forced to axe what he regards as vital services, in particular the pastoral care team that supports the neediest children, enabling them to cope with their anxieties.

It was the school’s lead pastoral care worker, Amanda Redmond, who put in the application to BBC Children in Need, with Bennett’s support. She’s now scrutinising the Turn2us charity website to see if there are more bids she can make.

“It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “We so desperately need pastoral care in this school, with all the social issues and the asylum seekers. We desperately need to keep the team together to make sure these children get the support they need.”

She describes the sort of challenges facing some of the children she works with in the school. “We have a young man whose grandfather was shot dead abroad. He could not cope with that. He was angry. He would not stay in class. He was running around the playground crying.

“I picked him up and worked with him. We did a bereavement book. He still has his moments but he is back in class learning and meeting his expectations,” says Redmond. Bennett adds: “He probably would’ve ended up excluded without that help.”

Other children struggle with the effects of parental drug abuse, domestic violence and unstable, overcrowded housing. “It petrifies me,” says Redmond. “What’s going to happen to those children? They desperately need extra support.”

Bennett agrees. “It’s very shortsighted to cut back on schools because it will come back to bite everybody. We have to go the extra mile for those who have not had the best start in life. Once they get to secondary it’s so much harder.”

A spokesperson for Redbridge council said: “We have considerable sympathy with the views expressed by Ian Bennett. The government has progressively reduced the funding available for local authorities to support schools and this has meant that authorities have either had to concentrate increasingly limited resources on those schools that need the help the most or trade services to schools.

“We believe that this policy is shortsighted and it is to the credit of Redbridge schools that they have maintained such high standards in an increasingly difficult funding situation.”

Education is in dire straights. I work in a school where we are short of the basics; pens, pencils, card, paint, glue, laminating pouches … let alone replacing broken/worn out equipment such as very old computers that died after being updated to Windows 10, broken outdoor equipment, puzzles where the picture has partially worn off some of the pieces. Class sizes get bigger and we no longer employ the more experienced teaching assistants - we only employ the lowest paid ones, with least experience …

It’s no wonder more children than ever are getting excluded … schools no longer equipped or funded to cope … judged purely on academic results

Youth services also virtually none existent, where I live we had a fantastic youth service; now we have soaring knife crime instead …

Money spent on the wrong things, spending cut from the wrong priorities.

Very bleak.


Yep … here in Worksop , my local Astronomy Society hires a room in a local school … built with PFI monies.

Not only are food , shoe and clothing bank donation bins available , we drop off stationery items … packs of cheap biros /
notepads / even cheap software … as the school has now a running deficit no thanks to that PFI contract.

( Me ? Always carry a few cans with me … food … not beer ! )

( Similar to the one in the Worksop school playground. )

Plenty of modern technology but … as Melly pointed out … no funds to keep it in good working order.

As recorded on the main FOOD BANK thread , many school children are being fed and clothed by the generosity of
their teachers … the fun starts during school holidays … no teachers around to do just that a daily basis !


School teachers are buying food for hungry pupils, shocking survey reveals.

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Teachers warn they are being forced to help clothe and feed children in deprived schools and exams have become a " Secondary consideration. "

Definitely agree.
DD1 is an experienced teaching assistant. Has taken classes on her own very often.
The times she had spent her own money to provide basics for art or projects. Had things from my garage like a load of funnels, wallpaper, a couple of boxes of yellow print paper from the office. All so she can try to do her job properly. No thanks from the head, but thanks from parents, which makes it worthwhile.
Yes, we too had a fantastic youth service, now non existent. It’s all so despairing. Priorities…
The head teacher having a fabulous office, plush carpet, expensive artificial plants, prints…
Budgets are all wrong in my opinion.