CALLS have been made to provide “fairer funding” to schools in areas worst hit by Covid-19, such as in Bradford, to help them cope with the extra costs the pandemic has brought.

Northern education charity SHINE is calling on the Government to provide cash to struggling schools, particularly those in the poorest areas.

Some schools are facing a funding crisis, say SHINE, due to the costs related to the pandemic and trying to make schools as safe as possible for pupils and staff.

The Department for Education said it provides billions in pupil premium funding every year, and schools were able to claim for extra costs at the end of the previous school year.

SHINE said school budgets were already stretched before the pandemic, and schools in poorer areas, which have seen higher instances of Covid-19 infections, are baring the brunt of the financial impact.

Bradford Council has supported the calls by SHINE.

Fiona Spellman, chief executive of SHINE, said: “The financial challenges wrought by COVID on our education system are real and many places aren’t getting anything like enough help.

“Educational leaders are having to find funds to cover additional cleaning costs, cover for absent staff and additional measures to support social distancing, all from within existing resources.

“This is forcing them to make impossible decisions between the physical safety of their pupils and staff and their wider needs.

“Just like businesses, schools have faced rapidly rising costs in order to stay open, but unlike businesses, schools are not eligible for grants to alleviate such pressures.”

There is currently a petition to the Government calling for it to reimburse exceptional costs associated with Covid-19 to schools, and also reimburse lost income from things such as rentals and lettings.

SHINE said across Yorkshire there is a funding shortfall of £500 million, with some schools in poorer areas of Bradford losing hundreds of pounds of funding per pupil since 2015.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “On top of the core funding schools are receiving, and continued to receive throughout the pandemic, we also provide pupil premium funding worth £2.4 billion each year to support the most disadvantaged pupils.

“Schools have also been eligible to claim for exceptional costs incurred between March and July and we continue to keep the costs of making a school Covid-secure under review.

“Our £1 billion Covid catch up fund has provision both for additional tutoring targeted at the most disadvantaged, and flexible funding for schools to use to help all their pupils make up for lost education.”

The Government has created the billion pound fund to help make up for lost learning, but SHINE said this isn’t enough.

Ms Spellman added: “The catch-up fund does not present a solution to this problem.

“£650 million of this will be spread evenly across all schools, not to specifically support the places where we know COVID has had the greatest effect, and the remaining £350 million has been allocated for additional tuition programmes which, while valuable in their own right, can’t hope to compensate for a looming crisis in core funding across the education system.”

Cllr Imran Khan, executive member for education, employment and skills, said: “Our schools have done an amazing job throughout this pandemic and I have long been calling on government to invest more in our children’s education.

“Schools cannot be expected to cover these vital additional costs without the necessary funding from government.

“Covid has only added to the pressures school budgets were already under and this is a time when we need to invest more in our children to ensure a resilient recovery.

“The government has said the right things about wanting to level up the North, I’m now impatient to see them deliver on that promise with real terms per pupil increases and more substantial Covid funding for schools.

“As a council we have taken the decision to invest despite our own budget pressures, for instance we’ve invested an additional £400,000 in an innovative scheme in which Bradford University undergraduates deliver extra English and Maths tuition to pupils.

“We also invested over £300,000 in vital educational psychology support and another £210,000 to extend school meals through the holidays because it was the right thing to do.

“We also set out an ambitious £1.2m strategy to address the digital divide faced by disadvantaged children and we are committed to doing whatever more we can to support our children and schools through this.

“I wholeheartedly support any calls for more funding for schools because ultimately it’s one of the best investments we can make. I urge the government to work in partnership with us and with our schools to invest more in this generation of children – they are only young once and they deserve our support to fulfil their potential.”