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'As we start 2015, every political party must make a commitment to protect school funding'

The following is an extract from a blog published today on the NAHT website by NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby

Happy new year. As we start the new term, I thought I'd outline a couple of things I would like to see from the coming months. 

As we head towards the general election every political party should make a clear and honest commitment to protect school funding. This must be a full commitment, covering both revenue and capital, including both the early years and sixth form. It must cater for increasing numbers of pupils and include the vital services that schools rely on. 

Given the state of pubic finances I don’t know if this is a promise that any party can actually make but we need some honesty. At the moment, politicians are either promising higher standards or claiming to have delivered them already. We certainly cannot have them heading into an election announcing ever more demands on schools while secretly planning to cut them off at the knees. 

At election time, the promises tend to target the floating voters. We’ve already seen the major parties trying to halt the feared rush to UKIP at the ballot box. Given the typical demographics at play there, this may bias spending towards the interests of older voters.

I think we must focus keenly on how much is being invested in the young. And this does not just mean in schools: poverty in childhood is as serious a problem as poverty in old age, and certainly a barrier to education standards. Diverting spending away from the young is the ultimate false economy, although the price is not paid until long after the decisions are made. Not a good recipe for electoral politics, sadly, but a true test of the principles of our political leaders.

My second wish – and it’s back to honesty again - is for a long term plan for the changes asked of schools each year, and for this to be kept to a sensible minimum. Probably the only way we can trust that this will be so is for some form of self-denying ordnance, such as an Office of Education Responsibility, which NAHT has proposed previously. This could audit initiatives for evidence of impact, value for money, and capacity to deliver.

The best answers to the big questions in education are to be found within the profession. Politicians dance with voters, inspectors wrestle with data, journalists toy with headlines – and all the while teachers find the solutions. In this respect 2015 will not be so very different from the year just gone.

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