Today the Liberal Democrats have announced the bulk of their plans for education. Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of NAHT, which represents leaders in the majority of schools, said: “Education funding is such a wreck that any party forming the next government will have a massive repair job on their hands.
“School budgets have been at breaking point for many years. The Lib Dem promise for 2020/21 is for £4.6bn. This is further than the Conservatives have pledged to go but not far enough to meet our estimate of what’s needed in this period, which is £6.4bn.
“As things stand, eight out of ten schools will still lose out next year because costs are greater than inflation. Immediate emergency funds must be released as soon as the election is over, although it does not look like the Lib Dem promise covers an immediate cash injection.
“We also need to remember that the school estate is decaying in many places. The National Audit Office says it would cost £6.7 billion to return all school buildings to satisfactory or better condition.
“The sums involved are truly eye-watering, but politicians must not shy away from what needs to be done. We demand honesty in every election manifesto, with no creative accounting about the money being promised. And whoever finds themselves in power must deliver - schools and young people have waited far too long for proper investment in their futures.
“We also need to boost teacher numbers. The Lib Dem promise is well short of the 47,000 secondary teachers and 8,000 primary teachers that are needed by 2024 in order to keep pace with growing pupil numbers.
“Teacher pay has been so denuded that even a year on year 3% pay-rise won’t make up for what they have lost in the last decade. The next government needs to create a positive proposition that will sustain experienced teachers and leaders through a decades-long career in teaching. A new entitlement to 50 hours a year of continuing professional development is the right approach, so long as it is fully-funded.
“The new recruits we need will not magically appear, and nor will they stay if we don’t also address the stress and unnecessary workload that is widespread in the system. This month the Education Support Partnership reported that 72% of all educational professionals described themselves as stressed. 68% of senior leaders worked more than 51 hours a week on average.
“The Lib Dems appear to understand that working long hours and stress are putting people off. Reform of the inspection system is long overdue, not least because it is a major driver of workload and stress. We should rebalance holding schools to account with helping them to improve as our Accountability Commission has recommended."
NAHT is asking all parliamentary candidates to sign up to the following five priorities:
- A fully and fairly funded education system where the real-terms cuts since 2010 are reversed and there’s guaranteed long term investment
- Great teachers and leaders in every class and every school with the support, development and reward to sustain a career in education
- Proportionate, reliable and fair inspection that schools and parents can have confidence in
- A broad and balanced curriculum available to all pupils that gives children and young people different ways to show what they can do and properly prepares them for life
- Timely and effective support from the services that children and families rely on so that all pupils get the help they need and achieve their potential
Note to editors:
NAHT represents more than 29,000 school leaders in early years, primary, secondary and special schools, making us the largest association for school leaders in the UK. We represent, advise and train school leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We use our voice at the highest levels of government to influence policy for the benefit of leaders and learners everywhere. Our NAHT Edge section supports, develops and represents middle leaders in schools.
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