Save our schools – the funding crisis
We look forward to a time when we no longer have to report on school funding, because schools are receiving the money they need to provide a quality education to every pupil and pay teachers what they deserve.
Unfortunately, that time seems a long way off – a long, long way off. We’re sure if you’re reading this blog, you would have tuned-in to the news last week that thousands of head teachers joined forces to pen a letter to parents warning them of a school funding crisis.
As Sky News reported, over 7,000 heads wrote to 3.5 million families making them aware of serious cash shortages in schools. The letter was organised by WorthLess?, a group campaigning for fairer funding, and explained how a request to meet education secretary Damian Hinds to discuss the funding crisis was rejected.
WorthLess? explained: “In short, schools are still not being provided with adequate funding and resources to deliver the level of provision and support that is expected and that our families and children deserve.”
Still, in light of all this, the DfE has rather ignorantly said that school funding is “at its highest ever level.” A BBC article also explains how a DfE spokesperson said it was “fundamentally untrue” to say funding was not a priority. They added that Mr Hinds has negotiated an additional £750 million for schools and was “putting a strong case to the Treasury ahead of the next spending review.”
Search the topic ‘funding crisis’ on the Independent, and the main headlines are pretty bleak – ‘More schools could close early as ‘funding crisis worsens,’ ‘Four in five teachers pay for school resources amid funding pressures,’ ‘Almost one in three council-run secondary schools in deficit.’ We could go on...
The true scope of the issue
Siobhan Lowe, head of Tolworth Girls’ School in Surbiton, recently spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about the ways the funding crisis has hit her establishment in particular.
She spoke of her embarrassment at not being able to fund support for her pupils, adding that she’s had to resort to drastic measures just to stay afloat. These have included dropping a deputy head post, selling off land and cutting subjects. She’s personally had to drop her head teacher duties to clean the school, wash the toilets and serve in the school canteen.
A further Guardian investigation has, in its words, revealed a system ‘falling apart at the seams.’ Here are just some of the revelations it uncovered from responses gained from teachers and parents:
- A North Yorkshire school is raising funds by hosting six extra non-uniform days at the end of each half term.
- Teachers in some Essex and inner London schools are standing in for lunchtime duties after supervision was cut.
- Hours in many schools are being reduced at the start and end of the day to save money, and some schools are sending kids home at lunchtime on Fridays.
- Managers in Gloucestershire delay putting the heating on until November – despite kids and teachers wearing coats indoors to keep warm.
- Photocopying is rationed, mental health support limited, and teachers are being forced to teach subjects out of their specialist area.
It doesn’t stop there...
Ninety-one percent of schools across the UK are facing funding cuts. Education Policy Institute (EPI) data released this year found that almost a third of local authority-maintained secondary schools are in deficit, with a tenth carrying deficits totalling over 10% of their income. And the Institute of Fiscal Studies revealed that spending per pupil has dropped by 8% in real terms since 2010.
Speaking to the Guardian, enraged head teacher Tony Davies gave a poignant response after learning his school faces a £60,000 budget cut.
“[People] talk about knife crime. That is just a symptom of a far deeper, wider malaise, which is that we are draining the potential and the hope of your people by cutting their services, labelling their schools as failing and labelling them, as individuals, as failures,” he said.
“It has a cumulative, devastating impact, and what else can you expect but for young people to feel angry, disaffected and isolated?”
Drastic action is needed, and fast, to ensure that schools receive the funding they need to continue delivering the level of education expected here in the UK. There are many ways school communities can support campaigns for fairer funding – take a look at the NAHT and School Cuts websites for more information.