Education cuts put kids’ education at risk

Teachers protesting in Norwich against cuts. The NUT has a rally today in Manchester
Teachers protesting in Norwich against cuts. The NUT has a rally today in Manchester

MANCHESTER City Council, local trade unions and community groups are coming together in Manchester today, Saturday 25 February, to highlight the devastating effects of cuts in school funding that are putting children’s education at risk.

A torch-lit march will leave Castlefield Arena at 5pm, and after arriving at Albert Square, will hear calls for these basic services to be properly funded from a number of local and national figures, including Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, and Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Courtney said on the eve of the demonstration: ‘The government is keen at every turn to define its new funding formula for schools as “fair funding”, but this is nonsense. It cannot be fair without new money. There is a gaping hole in the school budget and it is only set to increase through inflation and a rise in pupil numbers.

‘The government’s planned formula ensures that 98.5% of schools will see their funding per pupil fall in real terms. Every demographic of school is hit – rural schools, inner city schools, grammars, secondary moderns, academies, and faith schools. All will lose funding. There are no winners from the government’s education policy, only losers and worse losers.’

John Morgan, Secretary of Manchester NUT, added: ‘Here in Manchester we are already starting to see the effects, with large cuts planned to the Sensory Support Service, and a number of schools announcing re-organisations and planned redundancies just since January. This situation is guaranteed to worsen.’

On Thursday, parents at an Academy Charter primary school in Thameside, Manchester, staged a protest alongside striking teachers, as the teachers began a six-day action. Over 60 parents at Bollin Primary School, Bowden, staged a protest outside the school gates on Thursday morning over what they claim is the ‘climate of fear, intimidation and uncertainty’ that has developed in the school since a new headteacher took over.

The protest followed a petition signed by over 870 people that called for headteacher Michelle Brindle, who was appointed in September 2016, to be removed from the school. It coincided with strike action by 19 of the school’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) 20 members, triggered by a row over workload that has led to the teachers working to rule since November.

The parents pointed to ‘catastrophic’ effects on the school – which has been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted since 2007 – since Brindle took charge of the school. These have included it being issued with a formal warning notice by Trafford Council; 16 staff submitting grievances against the headteacher; the unexplained resignation of four parent and co-opted governors; and all parents receiving a letter from the headteacher warning them of legal action in relation to defamatory comments allegedly made about the headteacher on WhatsApp.

Julie Saunders, one of the parents who took part in Thursday morning’s protest, said the protesters had resorted to action because ‘all due process has been exhausted’. She added: ‘The protest was very good-natured but passionate and it’s about getting the school back. There’s a sense that we have lost all balance between progress and results and what actually is best for the children.’ She said there was a ‘real camaraderie’ between staff and parents who were taking part in the action.

Sinead Barry, a parent of two children at the school, said teachers would soon start to leave unless action was taken. She said: ‘Despite raising concerns at every level – up to and including central government – we are continually referred back to our dysfunctional governing body. If decisive action is not taken now, our fantastic teachers will start handing in their notice in droves at Easter. We’ve got six weeks.’

Peter Middleman, NUT regional secretary, said: ‘Staff have been raising legitimate concerns since last autumn about workloads, excessive scrutiny and an obsession with the capture and manipulation of data relating to pupil progress which has become a significant impediment to good teaching and learning.’

Friday was the TUC’s ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day,’ the day when the average person who does unpaid overtime would start to get paid if they did all their unpaid hours at the start of the year.

Commenting on the TUC’s latest analysis of unpaid overtime, which shows an average 12.1hrs per worker per week for teaching and educational professionals, putting them second only to Chief Executives (13.2hrs per week), NUT general secretary Courtney said: ‘Once again, the TUC has found that teachers and the education sector as a whole are subject to enormous levels of unpaid overtime.

‘This situation is untenable. Long and unmanageable working hours are the biggest single reason cited by teachers for leaving the profession. It is the government”s obsession with continual change alongside punitive accountability and assessment measures which has created this problem. These measures are all about providing data for bureaucrats and not preparing exciting lessons for children and young people. ‘It is high time the government addressed it seriously, starting by publishing the results of the working time survey it carried out in March 2016 and has sat on ever since.’

The University and College Union (UCU) said the figures, released as part of the TUC’s Work Your Proper Hours Day, highlighted how staff working in schools, colleges and universities continue to go above and beyond the call of duty and put in the extra unpaid mile. The analysis reveals that over half of people working in education (51.8%) do extra unpaid work. Only a greater percentage of finance managers are doing unpaid overtime. Education workers do an average of just over 12 hours a week of unpaid overtime – an amount only exceeded by chief executives.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘These figures reveal how staff in our schools, colleges and universities are going that extra unpaid mile. People working in education are more likely than most to be found putting in extra unpaid overtime and guilty of clocking up some of the most free hours each week. The time has come for schools, colleges and universities to recognise the hard work their staff do, reward them fairly and sort out their workloads.’

• Commenting on the figures released by the DfE on Friday in its asbestos management in schools data collection report, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: ‘It is deeply concerning that 20% of those schools responding to the data collection were not fully compliant with regulations. It is shocking that 2% were sufficiently concerning for the DfE to follow up with the respective responsible body.

‘Given this was a voluntary process with only 25% of schools responding, it is reasonable to assume that schools who know they are not compliant would be less likely to respond, therefore the true number who are failing to comply could be substantially higher, with hundreds of schools putting pupils and teachers at risk by failing to manage asbestos effectively.

‘These results seriously call into question the DfE’s fundamental assumption that asbestos can be managed safely left in situ, as clearly this is not happening in too many cases. Asbestos is lethal. The only safe asbestos is removed asbestos. The DfE must bring forward proposals for the phased removal of all asbestos in schools without delay.’