” … The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that by 2020 funding per pupil will have been cut in real terms by 6.5% for schools, and 16-18 education will be at a similar level in real terms to that 30 years ago.
Meanwhile, the costs of employing staff – usually something like 80% of the outgoings of a school or college – are growing because of increases in employer contributions to national insurance and pensions, plus pay increases for which there has been no additional funding from government.
The government is going to find that ignoring this issue is not going to make it go away as voices of protest become louder. Suddenly places that rarely made the headlines – east Cheshire, West Sussex – are in the news, with headteachers, governors and, increasingly, parents are all warning children’s education will be damaged unless funding is found.
The budget could have addressed the educational needs of the many over the few. Instead, what we got was an announcement about building new free schools at a time when schools are having to make £3bn of savings.
Cuts could mean schools close early two days a week, say teachers
There is already a need for some 284,000 new secondary places by 2020. It is therefore essential that any new schools are built in areas where places are needed, rather than creating deliberate surpluses, as has often been the case with free schools. Unless new schools directly help communities that lack school places, then parents and other taxpayers are going to see this as a shocking waste of public money. …
… As I know from my 15 years as a headteacher, always working with specialist business managers, saving, say, £150,000 in your budget in a year, cannot be achieved by deferring new textbooks or leaving the maths block unpainted.
Instead schools will have to increase class sizes in order to maximise the number of students being taught by the minimum number of teachers. They will limit courses at GCSE and sixth-form level to reduce the number of teachers needed. They will even have to contemplate cutting staff time for preparation, marking and planning.
Cuts, cuts, cuts. Headteachers tell of school system ‘that could implode’
This growing crisis comes on the watch of a prime minister and secretary of state for education who talk a lot about social mobility and have identified education as the engine room of national progress. Yet it is disadvantaged students and schools in fragile communities that are likely to be hardest hit by funding reductions that this budget has not addressed.
These are the schools where parent teacher associations are least likely to be able to contribute to funds, where budgets are already being disproportionately used to bring in expensive supply staff from agencies, where decisions not to upgrade facilities simply intensify the social gap between the haves and have-nots.
Many school leaders already serve as the social glue that helps hold together such communities. Now those leaders are saying that on behalf of the children, parents and governors more funding must be found – for all our schools, not just for pet projects.
This is a government that speaks loftily of social justice. In the budget it had one parliament-defining opportunity to put its money where its mouth is. Instead we witnessed the triumph of dogma over evidence.”
(Geoff Barton is headteacher of King Edward VI school, Bury St Edmunds. He was elected general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders in February 2017)