Following the government’s failure to address the school and college funding crisis in last week’s Budget, three education unions are taking the unprecedented step of simultaneously consulting with their respective members on what steps to take next.
The National Education Union (NEU), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) will be seeking views on how best to take forward the campaign for improved funding ahead of next year’s comprehensive spending review.
The three unions are dismayed by the lack of understanding shown by the Chancellor in his comment that the £400m “bonus” announced last Monday would help schools “buy the little extras they need.”
This allocation does not remotely address the 8% real-terms decline in total school spending per pupil over the past eight years, including cuts of over 20% to school sixth-form funding.
Nor does the one-off allocation supply full funding for the teacher or support staff pay rises that the government has agreed.
These funding pressures have resulted in cuts to curriculum options, enrichment activities, individual student support, classroom resources and maintenance budgets.
The government’s failure to fully fund and fully implement the teacher review body’s pay recommendation is also threatening the quality of education.
Ahead of the Budget, we set out six tests of what schools and colleges needed to see,* none of which were met by the announcement last Monday. We are concerned that the funding crisis is putting educational standards at risk and we are determined to act on behalf of children and young people to persuade the Government that more investment is needed as a matter of urgency.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “So much is contingent upon a properly funded education service – the life chances of young people, the economic and social welfare of the nation, and the goal of greater social mobility. All of this is being put in jeopardy by the government’s continued failure to provide sufficient funding for schools and colleges. We need to invest in the talents and skills of our young people now if we are to make a success of the new world that faces us post-Brexit.”
Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Enough is enough. Schools are being failed by a Chancellor with a tin ear to the desperate situation they find themselves in. Teachers are being failed by a Chancellor who refuses to fully implement the recommendations of the STRB on pay. Parents are being failed by a Chancellor who refuses to see the damage that persistent real-terms funding cuts are having on their children’s education.”
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “In spite of the 750,000 votes which ‘flipped’ because of school cuts at the 2017 General Election, it is incredible that Philip Hammond still does not get it. Schools have a £2 billion shortfall in funding a year – which is set to get worse. Capital funding has been cut by a third. A one-off payment for ‘little extras’ will do nothing to address the cuts faced by schools or the growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”
Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “On one hand, Philip Hammond acknowledged that school budgets are under pressure, that schools are expected to do more and that these new demands cost more than ever. But on the other, he has failed to find any new money to help. Schools and young people are definitely much too far down the Government’s list of priorities, and for them, austerity is most certainly not over. We will be taking all appropriate action to influence the content of the Spending Review in the Spring. And we must be clear; only new money from the Treasury will solve the school funding crisis.”
The Hands Up funding campaign is formed of the Association of School and College Leaders, the National Association of Head Teachers, and the National Education Union.
The separate consultations will open in the week ending 16 November.
* The six tests set ahead of the budget were as follows:
1) Reverse school cuts now: Reverse school cuts now: This academic year is beginning with more cuts to educational provision and more cuts to staffing in schools. The Government’s announcement must ensure that every school is guaranteed at least the same money per pupil in real terms next year as when it took office in 2015.
2) New money from the Treasury: Existing Government plans mean real terms cuts in funding and cuts in education provision. The Government must announce genuinely new money for schools, not money taken from other areas of education spending. At least £2.8bn** more is required every year just to maintain funding in real terms in the face of inflation, cost increases and rising pupil numbers.
3) High needs, early years and post-16 education fairly funded: Politicians will try to focus simply on schools’ core funding. Funding must also be increased for “high needs” pupils, early years pupils and post-16 students, who have suffered even bigger cuts since 2010.
4) A five-year funding plan: Schools need to be able to plan for the future. With pupil numbers rising and costs increasing, they need to know how much money they will receive. Funding must be announced and guaranteed for at least the next five years.
5) Historic underfunding addressed: Schools in historically underfunded areas must receive extra money through a process of levelling up with better funded areas. Fair funding won't be achieved by taking money away from some schools to give to other schools. There must be enough new money to make a difference for every pupil, wherever they live.
6) All pay rises fully implemented and fully funded: The Government must implement the recommendations of the STRB (School Teachers’ Review Body) in full. The cost of all pay awards and pay agreements for school teachers, sixth form college teachers, and support staff must be fully funded by the government, so that schools and colleges are not forced to make cuts in order to implement pay rises for staff.