Damian Hinds said that “society asks more of schools than it did a generation ago”, as he recognized the scale of the demands placed on teachers, telegraph.co.uk wrote.
Teachers are now expected to look after pupils’ mental health and check for signs of radicalization, as well as monitor health and social issues such as domestic violence.
Addressing primary school leaders at the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) annual conference, Hinds was the first Tory Education Secretary for over two decades to avoid being heckled by delegates.
Offering an olive branch to teachers, he said: “I certainly don’t pretend that I can just stand up here at this podium and say a few words that will solve all the challenges that you face in your school today.
“It is true that schools get more funding that they used to. But it is also true that society asks more of schools than it did a generation ago.”
Hinds went on to say that compared to other countries, English schools get more government funding per pupil than Germany, France or Japan, according to OECD data.
“But there have also been real cost pressures on schools, for example on pensions and national insurance,” he added.
“I know that it is challenging for schools, managing the budget. And I do pledge to work with you to bear down on cost pressures as best we can, working closely with you to make sure that schools can get the best deals possible and target precious resources at the front line.”
Last month a joint survey of teachers carried out by the National Education Union and the Child Poverty Action Group found that teachers say they are having to wash their children’s clothes and loan parents money.
Staff at some schools told how they keep a washing machine and tumble dryer on site, as well as clean underwear for pupils who are sent to school wearing dirty garments.
An NAHT spokesman welcomed Hinds’ comments, saying: “It is encouraging to hear the Secretary of State acknowledging the extra demands that are placed on schools at the moment.
“Activity in schools is often seen as an automatic way to solve a deep-seated issue in society, but it must be understood that schools cannot solve these problems on their own.
“It's also important to acknowledge that these extra expectations come at an extra cost, and many of the sources of support that schools once relied on have been cut or now have to be bought in.”
The spokesman went on: “Mental health services, speech and language therapy and some social care services are examples of how schools are filling the gap in new ways.
“As we've said, rising costs in other areas are a big factor. Pension and national insurance contributions are currently adding extra stress to school budgets."