Schools in Bristol will soon be seeing the impact of an estimated £3bn shortfall in the government’s education budget by 2020.
These are the first real terms cuts to education spending since the 1990s. The picture is extremely bleak, with 98 per cent of schools set to lose funding, at a time when costs are rising and pupil numbers are growing.
The scale of the funding crisis facing schools is so great that many MPs are becoming increasingly aware that schools in their constituencies will suffer unmanageable cuts.
Bristol is likely to lose an average of £677 per pupil – a total of nearly £34 million for the city as a whole.
The impact on learning will be significant. Class sizes in primary schools could rise and some GCSE and A Level subjects could be cut from the curriculum entirely as school budgets are pushed beyond breaking point.
The government is currently pushing ahead with a new formula to calculate funding levels for schools in England. Whilst this is welcome, many voices in education believe that the £3bn real terms funding shortfall will derail this process before it even gets started.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “School budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point. The government's £3 billion real terms cut to education funding must be reversed or we will see education and care suffer. Already heads are being forced to cut staff, cut the curriculum and cut specialist support. A new funding formula is the right thing to do, but it cannot be truly fair unless there is enough money to go round in the first place.”
NAHT is holding a series of national events to raise awareness amongst school leaders, governors and parents. We will be meeting in Bristol on Thursday 19th January to spread the word in the hope that local pressure will force the government to explain its rationale for cutting the education budget at a time when the school population is rising and costs are going up.
Jamie Barry, Head Teacher of Parson Street Primary School in Bristol, said: “At Parson Street Primary School, where I am Head Teacher, the cuts are estimated to impact by a reduction in funding of £612 per pupil. By 2019 it is estimated this could amount to an overall reduction of £249,064 and the estimated loss of 7 teachers. This comes at a time when the system expects us to do more for our children and our families as there is not capacity in Local Authorities.
“School leaders work in exceptionally challenging circumstances every single day. They not only have to provide a curriculum and ensure outcomes, they also have to be concerned with the whole child. Staff in our schools are doctors, police officers, social workers, family support assistants and teachers. The role is complex and demanding and requires investment which is clearly not there at the moment.”
First published 19 January 2017