I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from another teacher friend a few weeks ago that their Head had bitten the bullet and sent a letter out to the parents saying:
We have had our funding slashed by the government again, but we have identified these ways to make the required savings. Please can you reply to let me know your preference:
- Close the school on Friday afternoons to cut teaching staffing costs (the idea was to cut the PPA cover and the utilities bills)
- Make redundant three TAs
- All parents to pay a contribution of £200 per child
Naturally, this resulted in some spectacular responses from the parents, all of which you can guess. The Head never intended to all-out proceed with any of the responses, but what that letter did was beautifully sharpen the parents’ understanding of the real impact of the government funding changes so she could present their views to the local MP. In fact, I hear that Theresa May visited for a chat.
Every year, we produce a report which provides a snapshot of the education sector here in the UK. Our 2017/18 report highlighted how school budgets are being squeezed ever tighter, to the detriment of the entire sector.
Teaching quality is being compromised, it’s impacting morale, and it’s driving teachers out of the profession in their hundreds (perhaps even thousands). It’s a pretty bleak picture, to say the least.
Figures we cited in our report revealed that the education budget shortfall is predicted to widen to £4.6 billion during 2018 and 2019. Taking into account growing pupil numbers, this equates to a 8% drop in spending per pupil in real terms.
We take our hats off to schools, the majority of which are performing admirably given the current circumstances. Even still, many have been forced to take drastic steps to address budget shortfalls, turning to parents for help.
Schools in dire need of financial help
Ten years ago, we wouldn’t have predicted we’d get to a stage where schools were reaching out to parents for financial help. But a new survey has revealed that it’s becoming more and more commonplace.
The survey of 1,500 UK parents, conducted by charity Parentkind, was released not long after chancellor Philip Hammond angered headteachers by patronisingly promising a one-off budget bonus to fund the “little extras” they may need.
Over four in ten (43%) parents told the charity that they’ve been asked to make regular financial contributions to their child’s school – up from 37% a couple of years ago. Over a third (36%) of these parents agreed to donate money (up from 29% in 2016), with 11% giving schools over £30 every month.
As the Guardian reports, the average monthly parent contribution was found to have jumped from £8.90 in 2017 to £11.35. The majority of parents donated under £10 a month (45% this year, down from 53% two years ago), though 29% now donate between £10 and £30, rising from 21% in 2016.
It’s clear from the survey that parents are becoming more and more aware of cost-cutting measures in schools. Some of these measures include cutting teaching assistants (TAs), reducing the length of the school week, and charging parents for once-free clubs and events.
Over a quarter (26%) of parents now fork out for school clubs that were once free, while 28% said it costs to attend things like concerts and sports days.
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Money, books, glue and toilet rolls
It’s not just money parents are handing over, either – over one fifth (21%) said they’ve been asked to provide stationery, books and glue pens, up from 15% last year. Meanwhile, 12% have been asked to purchase essentials like toilet paper for the school, an increase from 7% in 2017.
Parents living in London were most aware of cost-cutting initiative in their child’s school – just under a third (32%) reported cuts compared to the national average of 18%. Among all parents polled, 49% believe that pressures on budgets have had a negative effect on their child’s education.
Impact of funding shortfall on families “underestimated”
Commenting on the survey, acting chief executive of Parentkind Michelle Doyle Wildman said: “Mums and dads have told us that they are donating more to the school fund and are under increasing pressure to pay for clubs, materials and events that used to be free.
“Not only does this indicate that the impact of school funding shortfalls on families has been underestimated, it also raises the spectre that increasing parent financial contributions may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing and increasing educational disadvantage – driving a wedge between home and school.”
Whichever way you take the results, it’s clear that significant changes need to be made to the budgets allocated to schools and the education sector as a whole. Parents should not feel forced to donate to schools but, just as importantly, schools should not be put in a position where they have to ask parents for help.
In your opinion, what do you think needs to be done in order to effectively address the deficit that is plaguing schools up and down our country? Let us know on social.
About the author
Katie Newell BA(Hons) PGCE is an ex-primary school teacher, Head of Maths, Head of Year five and languages specialist. Katie qualified in Psychology at Liverpool then specialised in Primary Languages for her PGCE at Reading. Before teaching, Katie was a financial commentator and is now the Content Manager for eteach.com and fejobs.com. Katie feels passionately that teachers are the unsung heroes of society; that opening minds to creative timetabling could revolutionise keeping women in teaching, and that a total change to pupil feedback is the key to solving the work life balance issue for the best job in the world.