Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:
“Ofsted's state of the nation report for 2019, shows a school system that is performing well but is under significant strain.
“As has been widely acknowledged, schools are now expected to do far more than ever before. We've also seen that the services that schools have relied on in the past have been cut back or have disappeared. We also know that school budgets are at breaking point.
“That is not a sustainable situation to be in. Nobody is well served if we allow this situation to continue unchecked.
“Four fifths of our members expect a deficit budget next year. The IFS has said that school budgets are 8% down. The NAO recognises that schools have to find £3bn of savings.
“There's plenty of evidence of a school funding crisis. Ofsted's annual report is incomplete without a verdict on whether schools are sufficiently funded for the work they are expected to do.
“The theories offered on school readiness or rising exclusions and ‘off-rolling’ are less clear.
“Here we have some data but really only guesswork when it comes to the reasons why exclusions appear to be rising and fewer children are arriving at school ready to learn.
“Our own research has shown that school readiness is at its highest when families have access to the support services they need and high quality early years education for their children before they make the transition to school. We’re currently seeing the impact of cuts in these areas and a lack of priority attached to early years settings and the people who work in them.
“School leaders don't find that parents expect schools to do their job for them. Parenting has never been harder. Today the Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes a report which says 4.1m children live in poverty, and more children than ever before live in families with two working parents and yet are still below the breadline. Some families are in desperate need of more support.
“If we're looking at the drivers for off rolling, we need to be realistic about those too.
“This is unlikely to be the result of schools acting unethically, which is the conclusion that many have jumped to.
“Very few schools would exclude a child and risk them go missing from education, simply to nudge their way up a government league table – teachers and leaders are bigger than that.
“What we see instead is leaders holding on to children, way beyond what many would say is reasonable, without any support, because they are trying against the odds to protect them.
“Our Empty Promises report on SEN funding showed that children with additional needs are being failed by the system because the support services are threadbare and inaccessible.
“The issue is that schools are reaching the end of the line more rapidly because the support that they once relieved on, to intervene and manage problems earlier, has been stripped away through austerity cuts.”
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