The budgets of Gloucestershire’s schools are “on the brink”, with the most vulnerable children paying the price, a government minister was told yesterday.

Five out of the county’s six MPs were at a special debate in Parliament on funding for their schools on Wednesday, called by Stroud's David Drew - the only Labour MP in the room.

Shrinking class sizes, leaking roofs and even rationed paper were some of the symptoms of squeezed budgets that teachers and parents had raised with Dr Drew ahead of the debate.

But, addressing schools minister Nick Gibb, Dr Drew homed in on the struggle of special needs schools in the face of a forecasted £4.7m shortfall in the county's Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) budget.

He told the minister: "Cuts to SEND funding have not kept pace with rising demand.

"The fact is that Gloucestershire has a special needs crisis and this is having a knock-on effect on provision for all children."

The Conservative MPs sat across from Mr Drew, however, argued differently.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, said the problem was one of distribution, describing the way Gloucestershire is allocated cash as "completely unfair."

Gloucestershire ranks near the bottom of the country's funding league tables - it is 130th out of 149 for school block funding.

Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, citing schools in his constituency like Belmont, said part of the county's SEND crisis came from the fact that schools "are dealing with a cohort of pupils that are far more complex in need that ever, and that is what underlines the increased demand in resources."

And Richard Graham, Gloucester's MP, denied that Gloucestershire's schools were facing cuts, saying: "Actually the amount of money is going up. To talk about 'deep, unjustified and ongoing cuts' is surely wrong."

Mr Drew replied: "I don't agree with him. There are cuts. Go into your schools and see what is happening."

This was echoed by one headteacher of a Stroud primary school, who had told Mr Drew: “One of the more tragic results of the cuts will be the financial disincentive to give vulnerable children places.

"In an increasingly 'competitive' climate there will, sadly, be schools actively finding ways to turn these children away so they become someone else's problem.

“Genuinely inclusive schools are penalised both financially and in league tables. It's a sad indicator of the priorities of our government.”

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “The government is determined to create an education system where opportunity is available to everyone no matter their circumstances or where they live and schools must have the resources they need to make this happen.”