UNISON is working together with other education unions to hold a Parliamentary Lobby Against School Cuts on 24th October, to show MPs that school funding is in crisis and to demand real increases in funding.
In September, the Department for Education announced the outcome of its consultation into the future of school funding in England and claimed that an extra £1.3 billion will be made available for schools over the next two years.
However, Unison warned:
• the extra £1.3 billion is not new money. It has been recycled from other areas of the department’s budget;
• even with this ‘extra’ money, it still means a below-inflation increase in funding for schools;
• 88% of schools will still face real-terms cuts in funding per pupil;
• the settlement does nothing to reverse the substantial funding cuts that schools have suffered since 2010;
• schools continue to struggle with limited resources and increasing class sizes;
• there is no additional money for early years or sixth-form pupils;
• there is no certainty about what will happen with school funding after 2019/20.
Unison head of education Jon Richards said: ‘I would like to take this opportunity to thank members and branches for all their work in campaigning against school cuts. That’s why this lobby is essential, to show MPs that school funding is still in crisis and that real increases in funding are needed.’
The School Cuts website states: ‘Don’t let the government pull the wool over your eyes. Head over to the School Cuts website – www.schoolcuts.org.uk – put in your postcode and see exactly how badly schools in your area will be affected. As a result of the campaign by parents, trade unions, teachers, heads and support staff to ensure our schools are properly funded, the government has found £1.3bn over the next two years from other parts of the Department for Education’s budget.
‘This, while important, is nowhere near enough to reverse the £2.8bn in cuts that schools have suffered since 2015. For the average primary school this will be a loss of £52,546 per year;
‘For the average secondary school this will be a loss of £178,321 per year.’
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary for Public Services, said: ‘Following the Conservatives’ dire election result – in which public sector pay and school funding cuts featured heavily – Theresa May told people she would listen to them.
‘Well, teaching assistants, pupils, parents and the general public are crying out for an end to school funding cuts – but it’s falling on deaf ears. This government is playing a dangerous game with our children’s future. We need to reverse these onerous cuts to an already overstretched education system before it’s too late.’
Paul Whiteman, NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) General Secretary, said: ‘The SchoolCuts website is clear that even with the extra £1.3 billion announced by the government in July, most schools are facing unsustainable real terms cuts to budgets. This means many are at breaking point, with school leaders being forced to make difficult decisions about staffing, the curriculum and crucial services such as counselling.
‘Children are losing out. The website uses government data, so this cannot be explained away as scaremongering. The Chancellor must act in the Autumn Budget to plug the £2 billion a year shortfall school budgets face. MPs from all parties have a duty to listen to parents, school leaders and teachers about what is happening in their school, and to ask the Chancellor to act. The growing crisis cannot be ignored any longer.’
Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the new National Education Union (NEU), said: ‘The bottom line is that the government has still not found enough funding for schools. The cuts schools are already having to make are only going to get worse, with most schools being faced with cutting subjects, increasing class sizes, cutting staffing, reducing the support for vulnerable children and providing a less rounded education for pupils.’
Unison’s Jon Richards said: ‘Parents know there’s more to a school than simply what goes on in the classroom. Behind every teacher is a whole team helping schools run smoothly, and allowing teaching staff to concentrate on the pupils. But the cuts ravaging education budgets have seen thousands of vital school support posts axed. The government might not value these jobs but head teachers do.
‘Once office employees have been lost, it’s harder for schools to provide a safe and secure environment for children, prevent truancy, deal with challenging pupil behaviour and administer medicines. When these tasks fall to teachers and teaching assistants, pupils are undoubtedly the losers.’
Gail Cartmail, the Unite union’s assistant general secretary said: ‘We need to strongly build the case that the government’s recent funding announcement is woefully inadequate and that a generous tranche of “new” money is needed to ensure that our children have the education that they deserve so that they can lead fulfilling lives and contribute to the future economic welfare of the country. We should also be properly rewarding our teachers and support staff as they selflessly impart their skills and knowledge to our children and students.’
Commenting on the fact that all primary and nursery schools are to receive £56 less per pupil this academic year compared to last year, Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers) said: ‘These cuts are unsustainable. They represent a reckless disregard for staff and pupils and the quality of education provision.’
Justin McCamphill, NASUWT National Official Northern Ireland, said: ‘Cut after cut is being applied to education in Northern Ireland. The NASUWT is resolved firmly to fight these cuts through our current industrial action. It is about time politicians addressed the issues affecting education as a priority.’
Parents have a right to know about the extent of the funding crisis, said the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers). Commenting on a letter going out to 2.5 million families from school funding campaign group, Worth Less?, calling on parents to keep up pressure on local MPs ahead of the budget, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: ‘Everyone knows that school budgets are at breaking point this year.
‘The government’s own data shows that nearly ten thousand schools are already in deficit. Parents and carers have an essential part to play in the campaign to get more cash for schools. It’s their children who are most affected by a lack of funding. They have a right to be told about the financial pressures and a right to become campaigners themselves if they wish.
‘Parental pressure led to the DfE finding an additional £400m for this year, which is welcome but a long way short of the extra £2bn that schools need each year. All parents, governors, teachers and school leaders want is for the Chancellor to do the right thing and put more money into the system now.’
• The Royal Society of the Arts (RSA) has strongly welcomed a new Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) study which warns that some schools are excluding pupils, many with serious mental health issues, to boost their league table standing. RSA education director and former Downing Street schools adviser Julian Astle called for harsher penalties to stop schools excluding pupils so as to ‘game’ league tables.
Welcoming the IPPR’s report, Julian Astle, Director of Creative Learning and Development at the Royal Society of Arts, said: ‘This report is incredibly timely and shows the growing consensus that we are failing all pupils, but especially the most vulnerable, by allowing a minority of schools to “game” the system – for instance, by excluding or “off-rolling” low performing pupils, or by herding them towards subjects and qualifications of little interest or value to the learner.
‘Exclusions are occasionally necessary. But when excluding a pupil, schools must be forced to consider their future welfare and satisfy themselves that they have genuinely exhausted all other options. In a report out next month, the RSA will put forward a range of proposals to prevent schools manipulating the admissions and exclusions system and other forms of “gaming” to boost their own performance scores. This “low road to school improvement” needs to be closed, permanently.’