There hasn’t been much discussion about education on the political circuit broadly for some time now. The reason is obvious – the "B" word. But while our country engulfs itself in bitter, self-centered nonsense that separates us from our allies, our education system is about to collapse. This is no exaggeration.
The reasons for this? There are just so many. There’s the need for all schools to make reasonable adjustment and make provision for children with additional needs, and a chronic lack of funding to do so.
Our current approach to curriculum design is a giant intellectual vacuum, and there’s a lack of accessibility to education for children of all abilities.
There’s a massive hole in a real understanding of the role of technology, instead of smart-phone bashing and blaming social media for all of our children’s anxieties.
There’s a huge and ever-pressing recruitment crisis across both the maintained and independent schools’ sector.
These are all infections spreading at an astonishing speed throughout the system.
Increase in teacher pension contributions
But there’s one lurking super-bug that’s about the break the camel’s back/be the final nail in the coffin/sign the death certificate (insert your own metaphor as you wish.)
It’s the Teachers’ Pension Scheme – it’s not sustainable. The Treasury’s proposed imposition of a 43 per cent increase in employer contribution from next year to the Teachers’ Pensions Scheme means that our school must budget for an extra 23 per cent for employer contributions.
Next year the government has said that it will provide funding for the maintained sector but not the independent sector. This means that a number of charity-run independent schools will really, really struggle.
For my own school, this extra contribution would add a further £300,000 to next year’s staffing budget. There may be those who scoff and say that the independent schools have had it coming to them, but the point is, it will come to all schools.
At a time when budgets are already at breaking point, pension contributions are not a "nice little extra". The whole scheme is about to collapse on its face.
The independent sector is actively looking into setting up its own scheme and withdrawing from the TPS. That will compound the problem, but can we blame them? Ask any school leader how they will find the funds to cover these extra contributions and I suspect the colour will drain from their cheeks.
I cannot see any way this can be covered. It’s not a case of finding savings here and there in order to win a bottle of Champers (Huzzah!).
Brexit is hiding the problem from the nation, if not from school leaders.
The writer is a head of school in the UK