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DfE funding claims 'undermine relationship'

The government is undermining its relationship with school leaders by claiming that budgets are rising, say heads

funding, MPs, select committee, education select committee, inquiry, spending review, Robert Halfon

The government is undermining its relationship with school leaders by claiming that budgets are rising, say heads

The government is "undermining" its relationship with headteachers by repeating the mantra that more money than ever before is going into schools, a parliamentary inquiry has been told.

The Headteachers’ Roundtable group, which meets to discuss education policy, strongly criticised “political spin” surrounding the education budget and a failure to recognise the pressure that school budgets are under.

The warning comes in its submission to the Commons Education Select Committee inquiry into school funding. 

Members of the group met with the MPs on the committee yesterday to discuss their concerns.

Its chairman, Stephen Tierney, said that, by talking about increased funding, without acknowledging rising pupil numbers and the costs facing schools, “the government is undermining its relationship with the profession".

Mr Tierney, chief executive officer of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi-Academy Trust, in Blackpool, added: “I don’t think it wants that and I don’t think the profession wants that.”

The group calls on the government to scrap individual pots of money for particular projects, such as the Strategic School Improvement Fund and Teaching and Leadership and Innovation Fund, and use the savings for core schools funding.

'Make recruitment top priority'

It also suggests that education funding should be fixed for periods that extend beyond government spending cycles, with ministers permitted to increase the budget but not to make cuts for a specified time.

The Headteachers' Roundtable has also called for the Department for Education to make the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers and their ongoing professional development a priority.

And it says that attempts over the past 25 years to drive up standards through choice and competition need to be replaced with a new approach to school improvement.

Mr Tierney said: “Throughout this time period, the education system has remained good overall, but there is too much variability and a lack of equity with respect to pupil outcomes, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The system is stuck and looking increasingly fragile. This market approach has realistically served its time; a new direction for school improvement is needed in order that public money is spent wisely on ensuring a place in a local good school for every child.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We will be investing £43.5 billion in core school funding by 2020 – 50 per cent more per pupil in real terms than in 2000 – with school and high-needs funding being maintained in real terms per pupil for the next two years. By 2019-20, every primary school will attract at least £3,500 per pupil, and every secondary school at least £4,800 per pupil.

“The education secretary has been clear that there are no great schools without great teachers – which is why it is his top priority to work with the sector to reduce unnecessary workload and make sure teaching remains an attractive and fulfilling profession.

"There are a record number of teachers in our classrooms – 15,500 more than in 2010 – and we are creating thousands more good school places across the country to give families more choice and make sure every child gets the excellent education that they deserve.”

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