HEADS HECKLE EDUCATION SECRETARY GREENING
Date: Saturday, 11 March 2017
Publication: The News Line
ANGRY head teachers heckled Education Secretary Justine Greening yesterday as she told the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) conference about government plans for new grammar schools.
There were cries of ‘rubbish’ and ‘no, no’ from delegates in Birmingham as she said selective schools could close the achievement gap between rich and poor pupils. Earlier, interim ASCL leader Malcolm Trobe told a press briefing that heads are struggling through lack of funds.
He said: ‘A number of people are thinking about reducing the number of lessons in a week – maybe having a shorter Wednesday and a shorter Friday. There’s a huge amount of anger out there about the amount of cuts we are having to make.
‘The majority of the funding pressures are government imposed – teacher pensions and national insurance. We know that money is needed for new schools but then to say something about making them selective will really have wound people up.’
He said Greening needed to go back to the Chancellor and ask for more money. More than 80% of respondents in an ASCL survey released at the conference say that their school has had to increase class sizes over the past 12 months as a result of the education funding crisis.
On average, respondents said their largest class size was 33 pupils, and a significant number, 129 respondents, said it was 35 pupils or more. Funding pressures lead to bigger classes because staff numbers have to be reduced and classes have to be reorganised accordingly among fewer teachers.
Several respondents expressed concerns that larger classes are more difficult to manage and mean an increased workload on teaching staff, as well as making it harder to provide feedback and support to pupils. The survey also found that almost all respondents’ schools have had to cut back support services as a result of funding pressures.
These services include maintenance of school premises, and classroom equipment and resources. But many respondents expressed particular concern over the impact on the provision for vulnerable students – 58% said special needs support has been affected, and 50% said mental health support has been affected.
Reduced budgets mean fewer teachers and support staff are available to provide support in these areas, and there is less capacity for counselling and educational psychologists. In addition, many respondents said some GCSE, A-level and vocational courses have had to be removed from their curriculum, and the amount of enrichment activities their school provides – such as educational trips, clubs and other extra-curricular activities – has had to be reduced.