Our schools are in the middle of a perfect storm

The independent spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, says schools face £3billion cuts in spending by 2020.

Meanwhile, Education Secretary Justine Greening has just announced a new funding formula for schools, which has been branded as ‘unfair’ by a host of Tory backbenchers and by six leading education organisations, from the National Association of Head Teacher to the NUT.

They say 98 per cent of schools will now face cuts in their budgets, as the pupil population increases and costs soar.

Meanwhile on the ground, head teachers are already struggling with a cocktail of rising costs – no wonder 60 per cent of schools and academies are now in the red.

They have had to contend with meeting unfunded pay awards (1 per cent year on year); the abolition of the contracted out rate of National Insurance adding 2 per cent to salary costs; the increase in the employers’ contribution rate for theTeachers’ Pension scheme of 2.38 per cent.

Schools are also having to cope with less support from cash-strapped local authorities – this is specifically acute with mental health services for children in difficulty.

Teacher recruitment and retention is at an all-time low, with staff leaving the profession in droves. Agencies are now demanding increased prices for staff with expertise in subjects in short supply, as well as excessive ‘signing-on’ fees forfull-time staff on contracts.

Schools now estimate that they face a real time reduction in overall funding of 8-9 per cent.

With further increases in employer pension contributions for all staff and the new Apprenticeship Levy, the funding gap is set to increase to 12-13 per cent within the next two years.

Subjects are already being cut, posts being left vacant, class sizes growing.

Schools leaders are increasingly faced with desperate choices of whether they can afford to have classrooms cleaned, sport pitches mowed or to keep hold of vital support staff who are essential to school communities.     

Since three quarters of school budgets are taken up by staffing costs, I fear compulsory redundancies will be next.

Whenever I attend Headteachers’ meetings and conferences up and down the country the feeling is the same.

They are all passionate about children and their future but are all utterly despondent and dismayed, particularly about finance and teacher recruitment.

This situation is not sustainable and is beyond the control of schools and school leaders. If it continues, it will blight the future of generations of young people.

No school, no teacher, no school leader wants their children to fail.  However, schools will soon be at the point whereheads are forced to make really drastic decisions that will significantly impact on young people’s lives and education.

If our young people are to have a genuine opportunity to succeed in life post-Brexit, we must give them the resources to set them on their way.

Specifically, Chancellor Phillip Hammond can bring forward additional funding in his March budget on 8th March.

You can tweet about it on social media using the hashtag #schoolcuts

And I would urge everyone who cares about education and the future of our children to make your views known in the Department for Education consultation on their new funding formula by calling for additional funding for your school. The deadline for responding to the consultation is 22nd March.

At the General Election the Tories promised parents that they would make England the ’best country in the world’ for education. 

It is clear now that their legacy will be one of cutting school budgets, super-sized class sizes, a ‘brain drain’ of teachers, decaying school buildings, and no progress made on the international league tables.

Our country and our children deserve better. We have a real fight on our hands to make sure that every child gets the best education possible.

 

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