Yorkshire headteacher explains why schools funding crisis has pushed him out the classroom early

Headteacher Ray Henshaw said the financial crisis schools are facing has left him no choice but to retire early.
Headteacher Ray Henshaw said the financial crisis schools are facing has left him no choice but to retire early.

A Yorkshire headteacher says he has been left with “no choice” but to retire early, blaming “the financial crisis that is gripping schools nationwide”.

Ray Henshaw, the principal of Minsthorpe Community College in West Yorkshire, will leave his role today to help “maintain the financial solvency of the college”.

He said he had brought forward his departure, originally planned for 2020, so the secondary school could make “a significant saving” in terms of his salary and claims the move is part of a raft of cost-cutting measures it had been “forced” to take.

Mr Henshaw, who has been at the South Elmsall school since 2014, said: “It’s not a sudden decision. It has been part of a long term financial strategy. We knew unless we addressed a whole range of things with the crisis with funding, we would not be able to remain solvent.”

His retirement comes a month after 3.5 million parents were sent letters warning of an education funding crisis in the nation’s schools, backed by more than 7,000 headteachers. Citing findings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the letters said that school budgets have faced real-term reductions of eight per cent since 2010 and were sent amid accusations over “inadequate” Government action in response to headteachers’ calls.

In January, The Yorkshire Post revealed one in seven maintained schools in this region were struggling financially, with deficits doubling in the past two years to more than £30m.

Mr Henshaw, who said he is retiring 14 months before originally planned, said schools could not make money from the Government go “as far as it needs to”.

“I have never seen education in the state that it is,” he said. “It will take schools to go bankrupt – and I think it will happen – before finally [the Government] understands something has to be done.”

“This is not about me and some hero sacrifice,” he added. “Funding per student is not enough. Schools can’t afford...We have, as a school, to protect our children from this. It is not their fault. Whatever finances we have got, it’s got to go into their education.”

Minsthorpe will now be led by two joint principals – Mark Gilmore and Rachael Merritt, currently vice principals. Mr Henshaw, who started his teaching career in 1982, said their present positions would not be replaced and they would have “a small top up” of their salaries.

“Staff have borne the full force of these cuts so that the education of Minsthorpe students is not diminished or damaged,” he said. Though he did not disclose the figure, he said the school was now carrying “a small surplus”.

“We are now financially solvent for the next three years and in a strong position to maintain our good education provision,” he said. “Whilst I am desperately sad to be leaving a job I love, I am pleased that by doing so I am leaving the college in strong shape financially and able to continue to provide the high quality education that has resulted in it being held in such high regard.”

The Department for Education said there was “more money going into schools than ever before” but recognised schools face budgeting challenges. It said it had introduced support to help schools reduce costs and that Education Secretary Damian Hinds had “made clear that as we approach the next spending review, he will back headteachers to have the resources they need”.

Meanwhile, Sheffield City Council’s cabinet member for education has written to the Government over “enormous financial difficulties” facing the area’s mainstream schools, claiming it is difficult for them to support special educational needs and disability provision.