Headteachers aren't the marching kind. This is serious.

Heads are sick of being told there's 'record levels' of funding when there simply isn't – I'm so proud they're making a stand today

Paul Whiteman

Heads marching at Downing Street_editorial

My first thought when I heard about this march to Downing Street was wow, headteachers are not usually the marching kind. So, when they do, you know it is serious.

Most of the credit for this huge effort to highlight the school funding crisis must go to Jules White, the Sussex Head who kicked off the WorthLess? campaign a couple of years ago.

Under that banner, hundreds of school leaders have been able to join the campaign, free from any lazy criticism that they might be partisan and able to say that they were creating a movement for change born solely out of a desire to see that young people’s futures don’t get undermined.

Having said that headteachers are not normally the marching kind, I’m not surprised at all that so many have answered the call and are converging on Downing Street on today. 

They’re sick of being told that there’s more money in education than ever before when what they see with their own eyes every day proves that it’s just not enough.

Of course, NAHT has been making the case for more money for schools for quite some time. We are part of the School Cuts Coalition, which uses government data to show exactly how each school in England is being affected.

Our annual Breaking Point survey of school budgets has shown a deteriorating picture for several years now. The latest stats we have show that almost three-quarters of school leaders expect they will be unable to balance their budgets in the next financial year.

This is fact, not fiction.

Other reputable organisations are saying the same thing. The National Audit Office, the Education Policy Institute and the Institute of Fiscal Studies have all published reports which make the same point that we do. Total school spending per pupil fell around 8 per cent in real terms in England between 2009-10 and 2017-18 according to the IFS.

Costs are rising faster than funding. Provision and support are being cut. You can do anything if you have the money. You cannot do anything without it.

The government’s current line is that there’s more money in education now than in the year 2000. But think about this: how many of us are paying year 2000 prices for anything? Our children are being educated at 2018 prices. We need 2018 levels of investment.

We can trade statistics with the government forever and a day, but school leaders on the front line can identify a reduction in the number of teachers, in the number of teaching assistants and in the number of support staff that they’ve had to make over the last year.

Many of the 1,000 who are marching to Number 11 Downing Street on Friday are NAHT members, and I’m proud of them for standing up for what they believe in. I’ll be there too, to show my support.

The chancellor has just announced that he’ll deliver the Autumn Budget on 29 October.

He must use that moment to replace the funding that has been lost.

Paul Whiteman is general secretary of the NAHT. He tweets @PaulWhiteman6

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Paul Whiteman

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