Commenting on Department for Education statistics on education and training, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “these statistics show an improving education system. At secondary, we see increasing attainment at GCSE, which makes plans to expand grammar schools even more inexplicable. At a time when education quality is improving, we should not be distracted by yet another structural change.
“The statistics also show a decline in the total number of schools, at a time when the number of primary-age pupils is rising; almost an extra half a million children over the last five years. We know place planning is a challenge, and we have continually stressed the need for local oversight over school places. Free schools at best deliver extra capacity in particular areas, which is not the same as a coordinated and measured approach to place planning. As a result a quarter of open free schools are not in areas of basic need and over half are serving more advantaged communities. This is not an ideal allocation of scarce resources.
“Indeed, the most concerning statistics are around school funding. At a time when the government claims that school budgets are protected, we see a reduction in education spending of 7.9% in real terms compared to 2011/12. As schools face rising costs, it’s no wonder many schools report that budgets are at breaking point. The government have a chance to offer hope to school leaders in the Autumn Statement. It must take this opportunity to invest in education.”
James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, says: “The statistics show a drop in the number of full-time qualified teachers in secondary schools in the last year. This is a combination of funding pressures, the narrowing of the curriculum, and a challenge to recruit.
“Middle leaders often feel the pressures when schools fail to recruit; stepping in to cover subjects outside their specialism, struggling to deliver the curriculum for their subject, or having to give up leadership time in order to cover lessons. Next week, NAHT will publish its annual recruitment survey which will show the government the challenges schools face today.”