Talking Heads – School funding battle isn’t over

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 Monday’s debate in Parliament, launched after the Gateshead Head Teacher Association’s funding e-petition attracted over 100,000 signatures.

Head Teachers across Gateshead were delighted that the debate took place as a consequence of our action.

There were some positive outcomes.

Many MPs, from across the political parties, chose to be involved in the three-hour debate and were able to share the views of parents, Head Teachers and teachers.  The North East was represented well by MPs who spoke passionately on behalf of their constituents with a clear focus on the evidence which clearly showed that more funding was required.

During the debate, it was mentioned many times that the force of feeling about lack of funding had been captured via the petition (which now has over 107,000 signatures) and that school communities are drawing a line and saying enough is enough.  This argument was further supported by the specific emails with actual stories of funding challenges in individual schools; this meant that it was not solely about numbers and statistics but about children and their education.  The loss of staff, the reduction of resources and the erosion of curriculum opportunities were all highlighted during the session.

It was clear that the vast majority of MPs, across the political spectrum, believed that government needed to make improvements in funding during the next Spending Review in order to avert a national crisis which would have far reaching implications across society.

Unfortunately the schools minister’s response did not reflect this. His conclusion being “Of course, we recognise that schools have faced cost pressures in recent years. That is why we have announced a strategy setting out the support, current and planned, that we will provide to help schools to make savings on the £10 billion of non-staffing spend across England. It provides schools with practical advice about identifying potential savings that they can put back into teaching. That includes deals to help schools to save money on the products and services that they buy. Schools spend £75 million on advertising their vacancies, so we are also launching a free teacher vacancy listing website to help schools to recruit excellent teachers and drive down recruitment costs. We have created a benchmarking website for schools that allows them to compare their own spending with that of similar schools elsewhere in the country. That will help them to identify whether and where changes can be made to direct more resources into high-quality teaching.

I find this response very disappointing. I didn’t get the opportunity to respond but would have commented that I spend £150 a year on advertising (via Schools North East! www.jobsinschoolsnortheast.com) and I have been using the benchmarking website since 2009. I spent 2 hours last Friday compiling a detailed report referring to annotated charts from aforementioned website for my Resources governors who met on Thursday 7th March 2019.

The governors of St Joseph’s, like many schools across the region, are making staff redundant and not filling vacant posts. We have just had a successful OFSTED inspection and, while we remain Good, we have been told that our next inspection will be a full section 5 as our strong practice and marked improvement may indicate that the school has improved significantly overall.  This means we will be inspected before Christmas and in all probability under a new inspection framework. This will look at the quality of our overall curriculum, at how leaders provide staff with CPD and adequate resource to provide a high quality  curriculum and how leaders protect staff well-being by considering staff workload.

The irony of this is not lost on our governors. In September we will have lost;

  • 19 mornings and 4 afternoons worth of Teaching Assistant Support per week.
  • 1 day of teacher-led PPA cover per week.
  • 2 sessions of high quality teacher led PPA cover.

The Head Teachers of Gateshead would like to thank everyone who has provided support for this campaign.  The collective force of our school communities has raised the issue of school funding loudly and robustly so that Government will find it difficult to ignore.

We will continue working with other agencies, unions and departments to drive forward our campaign to attempt to get the funding required for the best education possible for all our children.

It’s what they deserve.

If you would like to share your views on this, or would like to write a Talking Heads blog past, please email e.orange@schoolsnortheast.com  

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3 thoughts on “Talking Heads – School funding battle isn’t over

  1. Chris Boddy

    When the campaign is making the cost of the schools funding crisis so clear, with so many examples of how the current levels of funding are diminishing the quality of education that we are able to provide, it is staggering that the schools minister still seems so blinkered and ill-informed. His comments simply highlight the need for the campaign to continue and everyone associated with my primary school are fully supportive of it.

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  2. Denise Thompson

    I agree with Andy, we have been benchmarking our budgets for years and I spend less than £150 a year on advertising! We are being fobbed off the same way the police have been fobbed off this last week about funding to tackle knife crime! Thank you to Andy and others who have driven this campaign forward, hopefully if we keep the momentum up the Government will have to take notice.

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  3. adiggle

    This campaign needs to continue until there is real change – both in Government thinking and in the actual amounts we are funded in order to continue to run schools able to meet the challenging needs of our communities. Of course we can spend less, but not whilst maintaining the same provision. Most of the impact will not be felt for years as the real impact is a gradual reduction in the offer schools can make. Children will retain a residual amount of benefit from the provision they have been lucky enough to receive to date. Over time, due to funding cuts, they will not be able to have access to the same level of support as the cuts in finance impact on support staff first. Without adequate support in schools, teacher workload and stress will inevitably increase and we risk losing even more young teachers as they become overwhelmed by trying to meet the needs within their class without the additional resources they can currently draw upon.

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