Heads jeer Damian Hinds over school funding

10th March 2018 at 11:43
Education secretary admits "funding is tight" at ASCL conference - but still receives heckles from headteachers.

The general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders has dressed down headteachers who heckled Damian Hinds, the education secretary, over school funding.

Heads at ASCL's annual conference in Birmingham today were unsatisfied with the response Mr Hinds gave to a question about funding, with a few shouting "answer the question" at the education secretary.

However, Geoff Barton said that if heads were seen "shouting things out" then they would "lose the respect of teachers and of parents".

Mr Barton had asked the education secretary about what he would do to address funding, which he said was the "number one issue” raised by ASCL members. “We have to say that in terms of workload, increasing class sizes for teachers, smaller leadership teams… is driven by funding,” he said.

Mr Hinds said he understood why funding was the number one issue, and that "it isvital that our education system is properly resourced”.

“It has been tough, funding is tight. I don’t deny that at all. I know there have been particular cost pressures as well over the last couple of years.

"One of those cost pressures of course comes from staff turnover. When you’re having to replace members of staff who have left, that incurs recruitment costs… that does tie into what we’re talking about today in terms of workload because hopefully reduction in workload, working on that can help us to retain staff and help us to therefore have less need to be replacing them.”

However, when the discussion moved on, members of the audience began to murmur. There were some jeers and shouts of "answer the question".

Mr Barton immediately stepped in. “Can I just say that if the story today becomes about headteachers shouting things out and deputies and other people doing it, then we lose the respect of teachers and of parents," he said. 

"We’ve had an opportunity for people to sit here and talk about things, we know there is no magic wand to find funding and we know the department for education isn’t going to find it.

"If you think that ASCL hasn’t been arguing about funding, we’ve constantly argued about it. We are not going to sort that out on a stage in Birmingham today. 

"I’m sorry to be so patronising about it, and I was hoping that wouldn’t happen, because we now know what’s going to be the story today.”

Mr Barton's interjection was greeted with a round of applause from the audience.

Before moving on he joked that those who had heckled should be put "in detention". 

At ASCL's conference last year, the then education Justine Greening was also jeered by heads over the government's policy on grammar schools.

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