This week’s Talking Head comes from Andrew Ramanandi, Head Teacher at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Blaydon.
Whilst the conversations in Whitehall seem inevitably centred around ‘Backdoors’ and ‘Brexit’, the discussions in many Gateshead schools keep turning from ‘Interim Assessment Frameworks’ and ‘EBACC Buckets’ to ‘Insufficient School Funding’ and I’m sure this is echoed around the region.
I am the Head of an oversubscribed primary school that has experienced flat cash into school for the last six years and this – combined with inflation, spiralling fuel costs and increased staffing costs – has exerted extreme pressure on my school budget which is moving from healthy surplus to potentially significant deficit with two years. Does this sound familiar?
I have also had the opportunity to sit on Gateshead’s Schools’ Forum alongside a number of fellow Head Teachers for the past few years. Here too, but on wider scale, we have seen the sufficient funding for schools across the borough be eroded to the point that the majority of schools are facing huge funding black holes by 2020/21.
For years Forum has been forced to make some incredibly difficult choices, trying to share out an ever diminishing cake, fully aware that each slice was proving less and less sufficient. It has become apparent that those difficult choices are now being made at school level and that the scale and scope of this is becoming widespread. As funding has become tighter, schools have had to cut back on:
Teaching and non-teaching staff
Support for more vulnerable pupils
Small group work for children who are not thriving in school
Teaching resources (parents being asked to pay for books and materials)
Subject choices in secondary schools
The range of activities for primary pupils
Extra curricula activities provided free or subsidised
Repairs to buildings
Renewal of equipment
The current funding campaigns being run by all of the education unions, as well as Schools North East’s very own forthcoming #FundOurFuture campaign, all indicate that this issue of insufficient funding for schools is in existence to great extent across the country.
To this end, Heads across Gateshead took the unprecedented action of sending out a joint letter to all parents in April 2017. It referenced schoolscuts.org.uk and warned parents of an impending funding crisis. This crisis is upon us and further efficiency savings (of which we have all made many) will not touch the sides when it comes to abating the funding shortfall we are facing; this is not about photocopying or toilet paper! If the current funding model does not change significantly then my full and oversubscribed primary school may cease to be viable.
Marches and summits across the country demonstrate an increased strength of feeling and a unified sense of the immediate need for action. Head teachers across Gateshead share this urgency and have adopted a twofold approach to try and affect change.
Firstly, we are raising awareness of the both the existence and the extent of the financial crisis facing our schools. We have written a letter (attached as a PDF below), signed by the chairs of our primary school, secondary school and special school head teacher associations, which details the impact of this crisis upon the quality of education we can offer. We are sending this letter out en masse on Wednesday 28th November and will publicise this widely on social media. This first stage of our approach also details our second approach which is one of mobilising action.
We have set up a petition on Parliament’s website and are asking parents and staff whether they feel Government should fund schools sufficiently and fairly, and if they do then could they please show their support by adding their name to the petition ‘Increase Funding for Schools’, as well as encouraging their family and friends to do so. The purpose of this is simply to give our elected representatives the very clear message that funding levels are currently unfair and inadequate and that we are putting pressure on them to make representation to the treasury to invest sufficient financial resource in the forthcoming spending review. The more signatories it attracts then the louder our voice will be. If we can get 100,000 signatories then our petition would be considered for debate in Parliament.
If you are a Head Teacher and this strikes a chord, then please sign our petition and consider encouraging the parents of your pupils to sign it too.
If you are a teacher or a teaching assistant and you are concerned about what you and your school are able to provide, then please sign our petition and ask your friends and family to sign as well.
If you are a governor being asked to make untenable decisions, then please sign our petition and support your head teacher in sharing this message.
If you are a parent, grandparent, aunty or uncle and are concerned about the impact on the quality of education afforded to the children in your family, then please sign our petition to protect their future.
If you feel that Government should fund schools sufficiently and fairly, and want to have your voice heard, then please add your name to our petition ‘Increase Funding for Schools’.If you feel that Government should fund schools sufficiently and fairly, and have already added your name to our petition, please amplify your voice by encouraging your family and friends to do so too.
Our children deserve the best possible education to enable them to be healthy, successful and happy in the future; our schools need sufficient resource to provide that provision.
If you would like to share your views on this, or would like to write a Talking Heads blog past, please email firstname.lastname@example.org