Teachers were forced to do janitorial duties due to a lack of funds.

Headteachers are being forced to mend desks and unblock toilets after sacking school caretakers in the wake of budget cuts.

School leaders in England said they could not afford to employ caretakers and had to change lightbulbs and clear playgrounds of dead rats.

Amanda Richards, the headteacher of Sytchampton primary in Worcestershire, said her school “literally can’t afford” a permanent caretaker, leaving her and other staff to move heavy equipment and make emergency repairs to keep the school running.

“I’m 53 this year; to be honest with you, I’m not built for lifting and shifting. But there isn’t anyone else to do it,” Richards said.

She added, “Just before half-term, the toilets in our new building were blocked. So when that happens during the day, I put on the marigolds, go down to the toilets with the plunger, and try to unblock it as best as I can. That’s a fairly regular occurrence.”

We don’t have anyone to do things like DIY or maintenance for the building. So we either do it ourselves or save up bigger jobs for someone to come in and do because we just couldn’t afford someone to be on hand regularly as a staff member.

A survey of 400 school leaders in England by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found that Richards was not alone. One in six schools said they could no longer afford to employ a caretaker, while nearly half of schools that did have cut their hours.

As a result, 75% of school leaders said they had to “frequently” carry out jobs that a caretaker would have typically done. Paul Whiteman, the NAHT’s general secretary, said: “School leaders are already working intolerably long hours, and there is no way we should be expecting them to take on other roles in the school as well.

While the Department of Education says that the school’s budget has increased to a record £60.7 billion this year, this is still insufficient to fund our education system adequately. Schools are allotted funding on a per-pupil basis, and with many schools, especially in rural areas, seeing declining numbers, this is leaving them underfunded. Many are in ageing buildings that require an ever-greater level of maintenance that has to come out of the schools’ budgets.

Other Schools are in modern buildings funded by expensive Private Finance Initiative contracts. These contracts not only make the cost of the schools’ buildings extortionate but, in many cases, tie the schools into buying services from suppliers tied in the contracts. In most cases, these suppliers charge a far higher rate for their goods and services than are available on the open market, draining school budgets.

Successive governments have failed to upgrade the educational infrastructure of our nation or used the overpriced PFI model to pay for the newly constructed ones. We need to see money invested in replacing these outdated buildings and moving children into modern, well-equipped facilities. PFI must not be used in the future, and any incoming government must try to extract itself from the existing contracts or, at the very least, remove the contacts that handcuff the schools to buy from certain suppliers tied to those contracts.

Many in the education sector seem to overlook support staff, but they do skilled jobs essential to the schools’ smooth running and the pupils’ safety. It may be time that staff such as janitors, cleaners, catering, and classroom assistants are paid out of a central fund rather than the individual schools’ budgets, freeing up the actual school budget to do what it is meant to fund: the education of our children.

The education sector faces many challenges and needs a complete overhaul to make it fit for the future. Our children deserve education and access to extracurricular activities, many of which are being cut due to a lack of funds, giving them the best chance to grow as people and have bright futures.

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