Parents and educators have joined together to continue the campaign for more education funding, claiming greater investment is needed to meet the growing demands and costs on schools.
Concerned parents have thrown their weight behind the coalition of education organisations that are working together to improve school funding, including Save our Schools, WorthLess? campaign, SSAT network and the Headteachers Roundtable, as well as teacher unions and the f40 group of local authorities.
The coalition said the Government’s pledge last year to increase school funding by £7.1 billion over the next three years was very welcome, but still fell short of the £12.6 billion they estimated was needed to deliver a sustainable world class education for every child.
Jules White, Headteacher at Tanbridge House School in Horsham, West Sussex, and the leader of WorthLess? said: “I suppose the DfE will cast us as greedy Oliver Twists, always begging for more, but even after a most welcome cash injection last year, cash-starved schools need a long-term funding plan to meet the needs of children and their families over the next ten years.
“The will to deliver a world class system is there, but the resources are not.”
The coalition group is urging Government to set out a long-term funding plan, similar to that given to the NHS, along with:
· An adequately funded National Funding Formulae that leaves no child disadvantaged and enables nurseries, schools and colleges to deliver a quality education.
A sufficiently funded, national, High Needs Funding Formula that reflects the cost of provision identified to meet the needs of those with SEND.
Increased funding for wraparound services for all children: social care and health, including mental health and emotional wellbeing.
Parent Gemma Hayley, from Sussex, said: “I’m a parent to two children. My oldest is autistic; although he is a bright child, he struggles with high levels of anxiety and has many barriers to learning. His teacher is very skilled, and I’m grateful for the sensitive way he supports my son, however, due to funding cuts there is now one teaching assistant supporting three classes (90 children) in his year. The interventions that would support my son in reaching his potential are just not possible.”
In Birmingham, where many schools have decided to close on Friday afternoons due to lack of funding – which gives teachers planning time when children are not in school negating the need to provide an extra teacher to cover their lessons – parents said schools should have enough money to remain open five days a week.
Parent Amy Bradbury said: “I’m absolutely furious that six months on, my kid’s school is still shut for half a day a week. It’s disgusting. I don’t pay my taxes for a two-tier education system.”
The education organisations formed a coalition last year to campaign for additional funding – something they are all in agreement with.
They are concerned that much of the additional investment Government has made will be swallowed up by new, unfunded salary and pension costs, leaving schools with minimal increases in real terms.
The coalition group involves NEU, NAHT, ASCL, NGA, WorthLess?, Save Our Schools, Raise the Rate, Headteachers Roundtable, SSAT network, Fair Funding for All Schools and local authority member group f40.
James McInnes, Chair of f40, which represents some of the lowest funded local authorities for education across the country, said: “We are thankful for the extra funding – it’s a step in the right direction – but we continue to be very concerned about the duress schools are under in providing the basic curriculum.
“Schools are also having to pick up the pieces due to a lack of funding in mental health and social care, yet they don’t necessarily have the expertise or funding to provide the additional support that young people need.
“Early years and Post 16 are also greatly underfunded, with many nurseries no longer viable, while many local authorities also have enormous deficit SEND budgets.”
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "The Government cannot say it's 'job done' on school funding. Whilst funding pressures have had an impact everywhere, life in small schools is especially precarious, with 4 in 10 leaders worried about closure. The threat of closure also hangs over many maintained nurseries. A long-term funding solution for small schools and nurseries should be an urgent priority for Government.”
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Credit to the Government for investing more in education, but it has failed to understand the scale of the problem. Sixth forms and colleges, for example, have suffered many years of real-terms funding cuts, but the extra money allocated to them does not remotely reverse this damage and still leaves them woefully underfunded.”
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “We welcome the Government’s admission that schools have faced funding cuts and their commitment to correct this, however, the sums being invested are not sufficient to reverse the cuts to school budgets because school costs are rising faster than inflation. For a third of schools their financial position will continue to deteriorate, so they will be forced to make further cuts.”
Steve Edmonds, of the National Governors Association (NGA), said: “The £7.1 billion promised over the next three years is good progress. However, if it’s to make a real difference to children, then it must be accompanied by a long-term funding plan, which recognises cost pressures faced by schools and the uncertainty surrounding funding required for key services, such as social care and children’s mental health.”
Sabrina Hobbs, Principal of Severndale Specialist Academy in Shrewsbury, said “The squeeze on special schools will soon begin to impact on the most vulnerable children within our communities as it will become impossible to accommodate their needs as resources and staffing are stripped right back. Leadership has been cut, management has been cut and curriculum opportunities have been cut. There is nothing else without risking health and safety, and quality of life. The High Needs funding system is outdated, not fit for purpose, and can no longer be sustained. No more tweeks, much more is needed to solve this crisis.”