As all school leaders prepare their budgets for the coming year, most will be facing the unenviable challenge of balancing a budget with insufficient resources.
We are all aware of the impending cuts of 8 per cent over the next five years, which equates to £3 billion in real terms. This at a time when, for many, pupil numbers are rocketing.
So heads will be faced with unpalatable choices that inevitably lead to our children's education being compromised. We will have fewer teachers, larger classes, less choice, less support for our pupils and their families; but schools will be expected to deliver the same high standards.
Already, too many schools are at breaking point. Record numbers of children with complex issues are already in our schools. Special educational needs and disability, language issues, behaviour and emotional needs: all are issues that schools are now expected to deal with in increasing numbers of pupils.
And all the while, despite a recruitment and retention crisis, we now hear of the thousands of teacher and teaching assistant redundancies.
All of this to ensure that the schools' books are balanced.
I often wonder if parents are truly aware of the hidden cuts schools have been asked for in recent times. The increased contributions to National Insurance, the same for teachers' pensions, plus increases due to the national living wage, and the apprenticeship levy. Each squeezing an already stretched budget.
For some schools the promise of a new national funding formula was a panacea, but it can now be seen as a smokescreen. Hidden in its complexities will no doubt be money moved towards government flagship projects, such as grammar and free schools, but not for those thousands upon thousands who just get on with the job of teaching well.
Teachers know we have a problem, as do unions and governors: now we have to ensure the parents know what is happening.
These cuts are going to attack the very core of what good school do well. Over the next few years we will sadly see:
- A big loss in the teacher numbers, many sadly forever lost to the profession;
- Class sizes will increase with many not being taught by a teacher;
- We will lose large numbers of home-school link workers and teaching assistants (so how will schools work?);
- Counsellors and speech and language therapists will be cut;
- The curriculum will again narrow, especially in the secondary sector;
- School events will be cut. Trips and drama groups will become things of the past;
- And the training budget will be cut, affecting the future managers and the quality of teaching.
The consequences? Children suffering academically, socially and emotionally.
Education must be at the very core of what a country does well. Of course, schools must be accountable and taxpayers’ money valued, but they must be sufficiently funded to be able to provide a broad and balanced education to their pupils.
Sadly we have a government that appears to have forgotten this. The future is bleak.
Colin Harris is a former principal who is now supporting teachers and school leaders. For more columns by Colin, visit his back-catalogue