Funding crisis wasn't our invention, say school leaders

The government doesn't realise how much money it takes to properly fund schools, the NAHT conference has heard

Claudia Civinini


School leaders have been patronised and made to feel like they invented the school funding crisis, a school business leader has said.

Rachel Younger, who is also secretary of the Blackpool branch of the NAHT, made the comments as she presented a motion on funding at the school leaders' union's annual conference, held online today.

She said: "When the prime minister came into office last year he promised to make sure every child receives a superb education, regardless of which school they attend or where they grew up."

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"We all work in education because we want that to happen too. However, there is no way this will ever happen until the government recognises how much money is actually needed to fund schools properly. 

"Over the years, we have been patronised, insulted, made to feel we just invented the school funding crisis, that we really do have enough funding, we are just wasting it all on the wrong photocopy contracts, or too many toilet rolls."

She explained that although extra funding will mean a 9 per cent increase in spending per pupil between 2019-20 and 2022-23, once increases in teacher pay are taken into account, the increase in spending per pupil will be just 6 per cent.

This will mean that the school funding per pupil in 2022-23 will be lower in real terms than in 2009-10.

This, coupled with the extra costs of making and keeping a school Covid-safe, and the cost of staff having to self-isolate, means the picture looks "very bleak", Ms Younger said.

She also made the point that not only do schools need more funding, but they need more certainty around it.

She said: "When I started working in education, schools were given three-year funding statements. That disappeared a long time ago.

"But schools still have to write three-year forecasts, which are based on so many assumptions that are almost meaningless.

"Not only do we need more funding, we also need more long-term certainty over that funding. The sticking plaster approach is not good enough."

Ms Younger concluded her presentation by saying: "I am sick and tired of being at the receiving end of the government’s lack of planning, lack of thought, lack of consultation, lack of respect. I am sure I am not the only person at this conference who feels that way."

The motion was unanimously passed. 

The full text of the motion: 

"NAHT will continue to push for adequate funding for all schools in all nations, including small schools, maintained nursery schools and alternative provision. We will press all governments for greater long-term certainty over all school funding streams and core school costs.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has burdened schools with significant additional costs, which if – along with teachers’ pay awards recommended by the STRB and IWPRB – unfunded will force schools over a financial cliff. This will result in school leaders facing impossible decisions between making redundancies or cutting resources, which in turn will have a detrimental impact on learners.

"Should the governments fail to fully fund teachers’ pay rises, NAHT National Executive considers using all means at its disposal, up to and including industrial action, to achieve our aims. In addition, NAHT Cymru calls for Conference to support our campaign for a value for money assessment of the ‘middle tier’ regional consortia and greater transparency in how much money is used per year by each of the four consortia."

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“We recognise that schools will have had to take measures to become Covid-secure, as part of their hugely successful work to get the vast majority of children back to the classroom for the autumn term.

“On average, costs to schools to become Covid-secure will have been a relatively small proportion of their core funding for each pupil, which for secondary schools has increased to a minimum of £5,150 this year, the first year of the biggest increase to core school funding in a decade.

“On top of the core funding schools are receiving, and continued to receive throughout the pandemic, we provide pupil premium funding worth £2.4 billion each year to support the most disadvantaged pupils. Our £1 billion Covid catch-up fund has provision both for additional tutoring targeted at the most disadvantaged, and flexible funding for schools to use to help all their pupils make up for lost education.”

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Claudia Civinini

Claudia Civinini

Find me on Twitter @claudiacivinini

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