Local Teacher and County Councillor For Leamington Willes, Helen Adkins, explains how the cut to Education spending is affecting local schools in Warwick and Leamington.
The National Audit Office has said that schools face cuts of 8% in real terms by 2019-20. This comes at the same time as Head teachers are facing increased costs, such as higher contributions to national insurance and teachers’ pensions, as well as the introduction of the “national living wage” and the apprenticeship levy. It is also true that schools are being asked to cover the cost of redundancies for their own school, previously paid for by the Local Authority, adding another burden on budgets.
So, what will such pressure on school budgets mean for children in schools in Leamington Warwick? Well it could mean the loss of a Special Educational Needs co-ordinator, cuts to after school activities or staffing. Or it could be the dropping of subjects from the curriculum at both GCSE and/or A Level. It could mean the loss of mental health support in schools, such as councillors, as well as less well known support schools offer, such as speech therapy and drugs workers. And it’s the added extras, the trips that are subsidised by the schools for those whose parents can’t afford to pay. It’s the theatre trip or the pantomime at Christmas or the summer party to say goodbye to year six friends moving on to Secondary. It’s the training budget for staff, just as the curriculum is getting more complicated, it’s the textbooks for new specifications for GCSE and A Level, its literacy resources, numeracy and IT resources. And the list goes on!
More worrying will be the inevitably result of larger class sizes, which is such a regressive step! Often now there are 34 or 35 children in a class, many with special needs and medical problems, with dwindling funds to help such children. And by the way, when you hear the government claim that class sizes are getting smaller, this is not true! The governments calculation is based on factoring in all teachers in schools, such as Heads and Deputy Heads who often do not teach. The reality is that Head teachers are too busy to teach, as they have their heads stuck in a spread sheet making ends meet. Things are getting so bad that schools in West Sussex are talking of introducing a four day week to save money!
Is this acceptable in the 21 st Century, whilst children in the private sector have thousands invested in them by wealthy parents and patrons? Is it right that our kids receive narrower choices and a less well rounded education? Perhaps even more worrying is just as we know we have a mental health crisis in this country, particularly amongst young people, such cuts will make this worse, despite the government wanting to address this crisis. Why again are ordinary children being penalised? To balance the budget! Don’t our children deserve more than that? Shouldn’t we be investing in their future? Or is it that this government just don’t care about our children and don’t want to invest in them? Well it certainly feels that way. The Primary school my daughters attended is going to lose over £100 per student, which will be a loss altogether of over £12,000, which is a huge amount of money for a small Primary School.
So maybe it is a good thing that what was once called the ‘fairer’ funding formulae is now simply being called the ‘new’ funding formula! At a time when the Head teachers are struggling, the expectation before the recent budget was that the chancellor would put any spare money into our local schools. Well there was money – millions for the reintroduction of grammar schools, which divide our education system, pitting kids against each other!
Well, there is it – a catalogue of problems to look forward to! And that’s not to mention the recruitment crisis, which is set only to get worse! So, it looks like it’s back to the 1980s of Thatcherism – with tattered, out of date books in the libraries and the pictures children have painted pinning up the flaking walls. And it’s back to the good old PTA who will shortly, not be buying added extras, but will be propping up the core funding of the school, a job which should be down to the Government!