School leaders’ message to government on school budgets: ‘This is not good enough’
Sunday’s motions session began in earnest with the hot-topic of funding launching the morning’s debate. Proposer, Dave Woods outlined the great need for increased funding for schools and criticised the DfE’s misuse of data to justify ongoing real-terms cuts to school budgets. The discussion touched on the experiences of school leaders across the country having to run their schools while dealing with the chaos of the school cuts including making cutbacks to resources in their schools and having to make redundancies. Delegates chanted their message to the government loudly: ‘This is not good enough.’
The funding crisis has also had a deep impact on SEND provision. Alice Middleton delivered a motion to ensure children with SEND have the provision they need. The most vulnerable children need to be prepared for their next steps on their educational journey from primary through to secondary and further education.
Liam McGuckin from Northern Ireland spoke about how the funding crisis was being felt by school leaders in Northern Ireland, ‘In Northern Ireland children have the lowest amount per capita spent on them’. With cracked tiles and leaking toilets not uncommon in NI schools, McGuckin stated that more money needs to be delivered directly into schools’ budgets.
Similarly, the funding crisis is being felt keenly by our colleagues in Wales. Dean Taylor gave an engaging ‘weather forecast’ of the Welsh education system. School leaders are leading in a storm of school cuts and continual fogginess around where additional funding should come from. Taylor concluded with a call for a national funding formula that is transparent and consistent.
Protecting the pension scheme
The debate then moved to issues surrounding pay and conditions. Patrick Foley proposed a motion around protecting pensions. He stated that we need to let the government know that ‘We will not accept any detrimental effects to our pensions now or in the future.’
Tackling the recruitment and retention crisis
Unsurprisingly the topic of recruitment and retention of school leaders was also debated. Proposer Patrick Foley stated that currently, we are dealing with a well-being crisis amongst our school staff and morale is at an all-time low. School leaders are working harder than ever with less and less support. The government must make sure that career pathways into school leadership is attractive to new recruits through increasing pay and introducing further support mechanisms including mentoring schemes. Good schools are led by great school leaders. We must make sure that great school leaders continue to climb through the ranks to ensure the future success of our education system.
School structures: addressing the erosion of democratic accountability
Proposer Marijke Miles and seconder Paul Brown made the case to use all opportunities to expose and address the erosion of local, democratic, community accountability in parts of our increasingly fragmented education system. School leaders from both academies and state-maintained schools took the floor and shared their experiences. Members outlined that changing a school’s structure should not be seen as a panacea for school improvement but challenged the arguments that academy status was inherently restrictive and called for the sharing of best practice with colleagues across all school structures.
First published 05 May 2019