Teachers: stop shouldering the blame for funding cuts and start shouting about what’s happening to our schools
During the half term break the 2016-17 budget for my school was sent to me. Surprise surprise, there has been a change in the funding formula due to reassessed deprivation data. As a result, my school has a shortfall of £41,000 on last year's budget. And so the fun begins...
I happen to be in one of the worst-funded authorities in the country, yet I have to produce data equivalent to those receiving far more per individual than ourselves. (There was once a time, would you believe, Ofsted actually took this into account when inspecting schools.)
It is some compensation that the government has issued a consultation on a more equitable funding system, which may come in from April 2017, but that any result of this will not be published until after the London mayoral elections in May.
Of course it’s no coincidence that the London boroughs will be big losers in any redistribution of funds.
The authority I work for has always done its best to ensure funding is both adequate and appropriately placed. However we have reached a tipping point, a time when many schools and their governors are having to make horrible decisions on funding which will affect the lives of so many children.
Without doubt school funding should now be far higher up the political agenda. It is estimated that by 2018 nearly all the secondaries in my authority will be in deficit. I have even heard that some academies are feeling the pinch. Cutbacks in these secondaries will be achieved only if these schools save thousands by stripping down their curriculum and offering little choice.
In primary schools, which already work to a narrow prescribed curriculum, we will instead have insufficient funds for teachers or TAs in every class.
Why, I can hear you all ask, is this not a national debate? Why are we not writing to our MPs to display our disgust? Why is this not on the front pages of our newspapers?
The fact is that we have had our budgets severely eroded over the past few years, while all the while government spin-doctors have told everyone that we have never been so lucky and that education is ringfenced. Schools have been quietly surviving by reallocating money using savings or money put aside for buildings.
Just about every leadership team around the country will now be facing the same dilemma. How shall we cut the cloth to fit? Shall we reduce the support teams our children need so desperately, reduce curriculum spend, cut learning support assistants, run fewer theatre groups, have fewer office staff? The sad truth is that every single element in a well-run school performs vital roles, but those outside our profession fail to truly appreciate that.
What about fewer teachers? Sadly, this too is inevitable. In a short time I can see a time of larger classes, lack of additional support for children, inadequately resourced classrooms and buildings in a worse state than they are in now.
We all face these difficult decisions. Therefore I have a suggestion. Let's ask every school in the country whose budget has been reduced to inform the parents of exactly how much has been cut this year and in recent years. Let's use the schools' newsletters and websites to tell the true story of what is happening and how the cuts are affecting their children.
Let's all talk about the reduced curriculum, the lack of adequate support, why the buildings look such a mess and why their child may not have a qualified teacher in front of them.
As a profession we should stop taking the blame for a financial situation that has become worse year on year. If we all take this stance perhaps the media may actually wake up and start talking about something other than Europe.
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