Black Holes Not Potholes

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 n.chapman@schoolsnortheast.com 

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10 thoughts on “Black Holes Not Potholes

  1. Mustafaa Malik

    This action is essential in helping the powers that be understand the current state of educational funding. Sitting on Schools Forum and having to see how schools are unable to provide the resources they need to deliver the world class education we are expected to is depressing. Our children deserve better and it is time everyone stood up and shared that message with a collective voice.

    Like

  2. Michelle Richards

    I could not agree more. I have been a Head for 13 years and this funding crisis is having a catastrophic effect on our schools. It is having the worst impact on our most vulnerable pupils as staffing levels are being decimated in all areas of education. This funding crisis is hitting every school in every region of our country. Schools are cutting whole departments, Teaching Assistants, who are vital in supporting children with additional needs are becoming a rarity and we as a profession are facing the impossible task of educating the next generation without even the minimum funding required. This is also at a time when the mental health needs of children and staff are increasingly prevalent and we cannot meet the holistic needs of our precious children and teams of staff.

    Like

  3. Steve Williamson

    Michelle and I both work in schools funded by LA High Needs Block – generally a fixed pot of cash unrelated to the rising needs of real children with real and ever-more complex difficulties. Without getting too far into the complexities of different funding mechanisms, all schools of all types need more resources just to stand still, never mind meet rising needs.

    Like

  4. Joanne Allan

    I am in complete agreement!!!
    Staff work tirelessly to provide our ‘amazing children’ with the best experiences and opportunities every day in our schools. We do this because we are passionate about providing our young people with the education, skills, attributes and attitudes needed for an ever changing future. We build our schools and our communities with only one goal – to give ‘everything’ we can to promote community cohesion, instilling that belief that anything is possible and that aspirations can and will be fulfilled! We pride ourselves on that feeling of belonging and for many of us, our schools are the beating hearts of our communities.
    The funding crisis is not only going to impact now, it is going to have a catastrophic effect in the future too. What about our future generations? What is society going to look like then? Who is going to try and miraculously find a solution to future generation unemployment or when we are faced with HUGE mental health problems. (Bigger than what we have now.)
    The fantastic work schools do with the most vulnerable families will be hit hard and as we all know, this will impact on every aspect of life! That’s without even considering how we are going to provide ‘EVERY CHILD’ With an education that meets the needs of all! Our children DO deserve better!! Our communities DO deserve better! Come on- let’s all be united to fight for our children!

    Like

  5. Chris Boddy

    As a head of a small primary school I have to completely support the article. We’ve been forced to merge classes, cut staffing, reduce resourcing and increasingly lean on parents to support the school. Our ability to provide effective interventions is far less than it used to be and should be as we simply don’t have the staff to carry out support to anything other than our most vulnerable pupils. Anyone who needs to understand the funding crisis should simply spend some time in a school and they’d see this at first hand. The action taken by Gateshead schools this week is entirely justified and necessary. I find the recent comments made by the National Schools Commissioner completely baffling.

    Like

  6. Nicky Gill

    This is so important Education is the corner stone of society the cuts have had a devastating impact.

    So many vital jobs have been lost with many years of experience and important skills gone.

    I’ve signed the petition and would ask anyone who cares about Education to do the same.

    Like

  7. Laura Shepherdson

    Sadly, this is all too true. The ever increasing governmental expectations that school’s are faced with are completely unattainable on a static budget. Something has to give and this should NEVER be the education of our future generations. Schools- children, staff, governors, parents- we’re all being failed by a government who cannot see the wood for the trees. Enough of not enough. The problem is real. Make funding fair for our schools.

    Like

  8. Nisha Stephenson

    This is vital. I absolutely agree with the article. Schools are facing a crisis that is deepening. All children deserve a quality of education that will enable them to achieve and thrive. Instead, the reality faced is one of increasingly reduced services, diminishing resources and shortages in staff as more and more funding is cut and school budgets shrink. Enough is enough. We must have the funds to invest in all schools and in our futures.

    Like

  9. Sarah Rodgers

    It is shocking what this government is doing to our children and their education. The future generations that we are starving of funds now, are the same people who will pay into our pension pot when we’re old. We owe it to them to give them the best possible start in life and to fight to ensure they get a good education and a decent start in life.

    Like

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