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Election countdown: Have no doubt school cuts could be crucial on Thursday

There are other news stories dominating the headlines, but the cuts to education funding will still prove vital on election day, says Tes' news editor

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There are other news stories dominating the headlines, but the cuts to education funding will still prove vital on election day, says Tes' news editor

There is, of course, only one election issue on the agenda today. And the aftermath of the latest appalling violent attack on our way of life is likely to continue to dominate the news right up until polling begins. But that does not mean that combatting terrorism will be the only thing on voters' minds when they enter the polling booth on Thursday.

Horrific and frightening though these repeated attacks have been, people have also been shown to have concerns about a wide range of other issues from the economy to public services. And, of all these issues, school funding – or rather the lack of it – had finally started to punch its weight.

On Saturday morning – before terrorists changed everything...again – a YouGov poll commissioned by the NUT found that more than four in 10 parents thought education and school funding would be a key issue for them in deciding how to vote in the 2017 election.

Only Brexit and health outranked education as election issues. And of those who prioritised education, 83 per cent said they were more likely to vote for a candidate who will "support tackling education and school funding".

It was the only the latest piece in a growing body of evidence suggesting that the campaign against school cuts is now cutting through. On Friday our own Tes survey on voting intentions suggested that teachers have made a big a shift to Labour since 2015, with school funding concerns again believed to be a key reason.

Even today – despite wall-to-wall to coverage of the London terror attacks – the Guardian finds room for a page lead on the “school funding crisis”. Many of the details – curriculum cut, donations for parental requests – are hardly new. But the issue’s shift up the mainstream news agenda does mark a change.

The reality of funding cuts

Anyone with a detailed knowledge of school finance could have – and did – see these problems coming a long time ago. Tes has been reporting on the emerging crisis for nearly two years. But as John Tomsett, headteacher at Huntington School in York, has pointed out, back then rank and file teachers had yet to grasp the seriousness of the situation. “It was not on the agenda,” he told Tes. “Although there were quite a few rumblings across the country, it was not hitting the classroom. It was at the headteacher level at that point.

“I think what has happened in the last two years is that people are realising it’s for real. The heads are not joking: ‘I used to have textbooks; my class has gone up from 27 to 32…’”

Teachers are now living the reality of the cuts and those who want to take their concerns to the ballot box will face a clear choice on Thursday. As the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown, each of the three main political parties would mean something distinct and different for school funding, providing they stood by their manifestoes.

Expect the campaigning over cuts to resume at full volume for tomorrow. Our schools’ squeezed budget could yet play a big role in the outcome of Thursday’s vote.

William Stewart is news editor at Tes. He tweets @wstewarttes

For all the latest news, views and analysis in the run-up to polling day, visit our general election 2017 hub

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