This week’s Talking Head comes from Andy Ramanandi, Head Teacher at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Blaydon. Andy’s blog post follows on from his Talking Head in November, which detailed the plans for the Gateshead funding campaign.
I love working in a school at this time of year. Christmas is nearly upon us, Advent preparations are gathering pace here at St Joseph’s in Blaydon and I know this frenzied festive activity will be mirrored in schools right across the country. We’ve enjoyed our Christmas lunch, survived our Christmas Fair and had a great time on our annual trip to the pantomime.
This year, we visited the Northern Stage and saw the marvellous ‘A Christmas Carol’. It was moving, exhilarating and my children were dancing in their seats by the end. The music was vibrant and had a wonderful jazziness to it; something most of children had never experienced before.
In order to fund this, we rely on parental donations and I’m really lucky to have an active PTA, the Friends of St Joseph’s, who heavily subsidised this trip. They freely give up their time and talent to organise and run events like our Fair to help provide these wonderful ‘little extras’ that make a child’s experience at primary school magical.
Now, I’m definitely more Buddy the Elf than Scrooge and don’t have a Bah Humbuggy bone in my body. So, during the performance, I was surprised that when the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come arrived – and I naturally found myself thinking about future Christmases at St Joseph’s –my own Christmas spirit evaporated.
There is clearly a huge issue of schools being underfunded.
The National Education Union has launched an indicative ballot to ask members about next steps in their funding campaign, ‘Hands Up – because enough is enough!’
The NASUWT continues to have concerns about inadequate school funding levels.
The NAHT have their own campaign, ‘It’s Make Or Break Time For Schools’ which intention is to ‘make the case that funding settlement is insufficient.’
Schools North East are due to launch their own campaign in January, #FundOurFuture.
The government’s response to the petition set up by Gateshead Head Teachers is that they recognise schools are facing budgeting challenges and that they are asking schools to do more.
“We’ve made funding fairer across the country but recognise budgets remain tight which is why we’re supporting schools and head teachers to make the most of their budgets and reduce costs on things like energy, water bills and materials.”
The size of short falls many Gateshead schools are currently experiencing is significantly greater than their expenditure on energy, water bills and materials and I am sure this is echoed around the country. Both the School Cuts website and the House Of Commons Library ‘Constituency data: schools funding’ demonstrate the size of the issue many schools are facing.
Unless there is a dramatic change then schools will be forced to consider current staffing levels which will be unaffordable. I believe this can only be to the detriment of the quality of education we can provide. In my last piece for this Talking Heads Blog I stated, “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 now.”
I stand by that and I’d be surprised if any of you disagree.
This is why Gateshead Heads took the unprecedented step of sending out a letter to parents, raising awareness of the funding issue and asking them to sign a petition. Two and a half weeks later, since the letter was published, the petition is nearing 33,000 signatories; this means that it is one-third of the way to potentially being debated in Parliament.
Pressure does work. Damian Hinds announced £350 Million to improve funding for SEND earlier this week which is welcomed and proof that government can listen. We now need to empower our elected officials, our constituency MPs, to support the Department for Education in making the case to the treasury for increased school funding. Having our petition debated in parliament will enable this. In order for this to happen we just need to amplify our voice.
At the start of the week, just over 15% of the signatories came from two North East constituencies; Blaydon and Gateshead. There is no coincidence that this is the geographical area in which letters were sent to parents. There are 650 constituencies in the UK and two of them are sharing their voice more loudly than others.
I believe there is something powerful in groups of Head Teachers, with shared concerns, getting together and communicating those concerns to parents. Our strategy was simple.
- Raise awareness
- Share our voice
- Amplify our voice by encouraging others to
- Raise awareness
- Share their voice
- Amplify their voice by encouraging others to
- Raise awareness…
If you haven’t sent a letter to parents then consider it. Schools North East will be launching their campaign in January and my school will be supporting it fully. This would be a great opportunity for parents to be signposted to the petition.
If you believe school funding is currently inadequate and would like to see the issue debated in Parliament then help us get more than 100,000 signatories. The map on the petitions website indicates that the number of signatories increases where letters are sent to parents by groups of schools. The Heads in Gateshead sent out their letter in the hope of some positive funding outcomes which in turn would potentially prevent the need to send out future letters to parents explaining the impact of insufficient funding in their own school.
I can see a future where PTAs across the country, like the Friends of St Joseph’s, will be fundraising for essentials not for ‘little extras’. I don’t like that future. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come gave Scrooge a vision that prompted action.
As I said, I’m more Buddy the Elf than Ebenezer Scrooge and to quote another Christmas favourite; I believe.
I believe we can get well over the 100,000 needed to have our concerns heard and debated in Parliament.
I believe schools should be funded sufficiently and fairly.
I believe 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 now.
If you would like to share your views on this, or would like to write a Talking Heads blog past, please email email@example.com