ALMOST every school in the country is to have its funding slashed, some by as much as £1,000 per pupil per year, under the Tory government’s National Funding Formula (NFF) it was announced on Monday.
The National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that there are to be huge education cuts nationwide, as details of the long-awaited NFF were published. Ninety-eight per cent of schools face a real terms reduction in funding for every pupil, with an average loss for each primary pupil of £339 and £477 for every secondary pupil, revealed the NAO.
Following publication of the Tory government’s final proposals for the NFF, organisations representing school staff, teachers and school leaders – ATL, GMB, NAHT, NUT, Unison and Unite – updated the schoolcuts.org.uk website to reflect the funding losses facing each school in England. They described the picture as ‘extremely bleak’.
Although the Tories accused the unions and other bodies representing education professionals of ‘scaremongering’, the updated figures are actually considerably worse than had been previously predicted. According to the National Audit Office schools will face a massive real terms drop of £3 billion.
The education unions warn that this threatens the successful implementation of a new NFF which they say has long been the goal of many organisations in education. While a new NFF can address disparities in funding between schools facing similar challenges, the total budget must be sufficient before there is any chance of being fair to all children, they say.
The ‘reassurances’ which Tory Schools Minister Nick Gibb had given to MPs when he claimed that schools would not actually lose money are proven to be false, said the unions. The scale of the funding crisis facing schools is so great that MPs are becoming increasingly aware that schools in their constituencies will suffer unmanageable cuts, said the unions.
Yesterday the unions published the ‘School Cuts’ league table for England’s 533 Parliamentary constituencies – every one of which stands to lose out from the government’s new funding proposals, with per pupil funding losses reaching over £1,000 in the worst hit cases.
Those affected include the four main protagonists in the school funding proposals:
• Prime Minister Theresa May, the MP for Maidenhead, can expect a real terms cut of £377 for every pupil in her constituency. All bar one of her schools will face real terms cuts, in the worst case by £872 for every pupil.
• Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, the MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, can also expect to see all bar one of the schools in his Surrey constituency suffer under the government’s spending policies. The average cut across the constituency will be £285 for every pupil.
• Education Secretary Justine Greening is MP for Putney. Every school in her constituency will experience real terms cuts, with an average loss of £655 for every pupil.
The worst-hit school will see a loss of £834 for every pupil in real terms.
• Nick Gibb, the Schools Minister and MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, will see every school in his constituency lose out. The average loss for every pupil will be £309 in real terms. Whilst they are losing, many others are losing even more.
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison, said: ‘Cash-strapped schools are struggling to give children a decent education. The funding crisis means overcrowded classrooms, support staff not being replaced and parents having to pay towards the cost of lessons. Children, parents and staff deserve so much better.’
Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: ‘It is incredibly difficult to produce a formula that funds all schools in England fairly, but unless the government puts more money into the overall budget all schools will struggle to make ends meet.
‘Many parents are already being asked to pay for text books and IT and help fund-raise to pay for support for children with special educational needs and this will increase. Instead of wasting money on expanding grammar schools, the government needs to put the money where it will make the most difference – funding existing schools adequately – otherwise a whole generation of children will have a severely restricted education.’
Tim Roache, General Secretary of the GMB union, said: ‘Theresa May’s Tories are running our schools into the ground, trampling over our children’s life chances, and undermining hard-working school support staff. “School Cuts” reveals how every single constituency in England stands to lose out from the Government’s funding proposals, putting unmanageable strain on the dedicated public servants who are trying to do the best by our kids. This is a wake-up call – we need funding for our future, not relentless and self-defeating budget cuts.’
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘Every single MP in England has reason to be worried about our latest analysis which shows how every constituency will be adversely affected by the government’s recently-announced funding proposals.
‘Schools are already on their knees trying to make ends meet. Budgets have been cut to the bone and decisions such as increasing class sizes and losing staff have already been made. To avert this national scandal, government must reassess its plans and make substantial new funding an urgent priority so that all schools have sufficient money to run an effective education system.’
Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘School budgets are being pushed beyond breaking point. The government’s £3 billion real terms cut to education funding must be reversed or we will see education and care suffer. Already heads are being forced to cut staff, cut the curriculum and cut specialist support. A new funding formula is the right thing to do, but it cannot be truly fair unless there is enough money to go round in the first place.’
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, said: ‘Schools and school support staff must have proper investment to deliver good education outcomes for all children. We call on government to stop the cuts and fully fund our schools and education services.’
Rather than merely bemoaning these savage cuts, or ‘calling on the government to stop the cuts’, as if the Tories are to be reasoned with, the unions must mobilise their immense power and call united strike action to defend education and defeat the cuts. All education workers should attend the All Trades Unions Alliance National Conference on February 11th to discuss action to defend the NHS, education and all public services.
• Derby school support staff are striking every morning this week in their latest round of action against contract changes that have slashed their wages by up to 25%. The teaching assistants, school supervisors, admin staff and other support workers are taking strike action between 7.00am and 1.00pm today and every day this week.
This week’s strike follows a two-day strike on 4th and 5th January after the Unison members voted to reject an offer by the council late last year. Unison represents around 1,200 support workers in the East Midlands city’s schools. Derby branch secretary Nicole Beresford told local media at the weekend: ‘Strike action will continue until a settlement is found’.
Unions also expressed ‘real concerns’ over advice being given to schools by Derby City Council to bring in ‘volunteers’ in an attempt to break the strike and said it was seeking legal advice. The strike-breaking communique stated: ‘Use of volunteers – You can ask for volunteers to help with the support and safeguarding of the children.
These may be Parents/Carers, Governors or other persons known to the school.’
Sue Arguile, secretary of the Derby National Union of Teachers branch said: ‘Having people like this covering classes is an obvious health and safety and safeguarding issue. None of these people will have had official checks which mean police records have been examined and this gives us real concerns as to the legality of the situation.
‘That is why we are seeking legal opinion on this and at the very least it is a questionable practice. I wonder how many parents would want unqualified people potentially looking after their children.’
Parents should be pressuring the council to resolve the dispute, she said, adding: ‘If I were a parent, I would be unhappy at my child being looked after by an untrained volunteer and would be putting pressure on Derby City Council to sort out the mess. Teaching assistants are highly skilled practitioners and cannot be replaced by volunteers.
‘The longer this dispute continues, the more our children’s education is disrupted. Keeping schools open with volunteers is merely providing a child minding service rather than addressing the real issue.’