The aftermath of this week’s budget provided an opportunity for the Essex headteachers campaign against severe school budget cuts to get a national airing. The BBC visited Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s former secondary school, Shenfield High School, to find out what its current head thought of his response to the current and future funding crisis. Carole Herman’s review was far from favourable as she very effectively summarised the concerns of headteachers and the ineffectual governmental response to them.
Carole can be seen providing her one minute summary on BBC local news here:
She can also be heard on BBC Essex explaining the issues to Sadie Nine from 02:07 via this link.
Ms Herman is the latest headteacher to courageously outline the effect that reduced real terms funding is having on their school and what the likely future ramifications are. In the current climate, where schools are encouraged to compete for pupils, it is brave to point out that your school is under pressure to maintain its provision. That is why it is so important that the Essex heads, and an increasing number of others, are standing together to show that they are all being adversely affected.
Incredibly powerful testimony to the consequences of reduced funding on the heads, teachers, staff, governors, and most importantly, the educational opportunities of students is provided by York headteacher Jon Tomsett in an article for the TES this week. This is a highly recommended piece that starkly illustrates the crisis that we are currently experiencing and the dire consequences of not urgently addressing it:
Yesterday, Carole Herman appeared on our local radio station, PhoenixFM, to further explain her response to the budget but also to promote a new letter produced in conjunction with colleagues from other counties. Essex heads have joined with those of East and West Sussex and Cornwall to urge their local MPS to support their campaign.
The full letter and Carole’s ten minute interview are available via this link:
As the Essex heads are clearly stating, this is a reasonable campaign that is not asking for anything other than the government to honour their manifesto pledge to protect school budgets. That means providing schools with the money to cover the rising costs, amounting to 8% of their budget, that have been imposed upon them since 2015.
As Mr Tomsett outlines in his piece, since 2010 the government have made much of the “freedoms” given to headteachers and governors to control their allocated funds as they see fit under their academy programme. While the stated intention of this was to allow innovation and drive school improvement, the growing suspicion is that it has instead formed a human shield between parents and government as school leaders are blamed for the effects of cuts. Only a full, meaningful and financially substantive response to headteachers concerns will allay that suspicion.
While this issue has gained national attention this week, it is essential that parents and the community do not think that this in itself will be sufficient to cause action to be taken. Headteachers are asking us to write to our MPs in support of their concerns and demands for action. As such, we publish again our template e-mail/letter with MP contact details below and urge everyone to back our local schools in fighting to protect educational opportunity for our young people.
Educating Brentwood acknowledge that it is not always easy for those with limited time to draft a letter so we have decided to share one prepared for sending to our local MP in the hope that others can use it as a template to raise their concerns should they wish to do so. We would also stress that this action should not be limited to parents as education cuts have implications for the future of us all. Those who wish to show their support can also write to MPs in support of their local school. To that end, we have provided an alternative third paragraph should you wish to use that.
Dear Sir Eric Pickles,
As a long standing supporter of our local schools, I know that you will have been disturbed by the concerns raised by our headteachers about the effects that declining school budgets are having on education provision to our children.
While the proposed National Funding Formula (NFF) is an honest attempt to address unfairness in the current funding system, it will not bridge the growing funding gap schools are experiencing. The government pledged to protect the schools budget as part of its election manifesto but, while this may have been done in flat cash terms, it has not taken into account rising pupil numbers, cuts to the Educational Service Grant and increasing National insurance and pension contributions. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculates that this amounts to a real terms cut of 8% in school budgets as outlined here: https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8027
Our headteacher has outlined in a letter to parents that staffing levels are likely to be reduced, class sizes increased, pastoral provision reduced and the curricula choices for our children further restricted as a consequence. As a parent of children in two local schools, I am dismayed that they will be denied the educational opportunities provided to past cohorts unless this funding gap is addressed.
As the government’s manifesto testified, education funding is an investment in our children’s future but also that of the country as a whole. Please can I therefore ask you to urge the government to honour their pledge in real terms and to support the Essex headteachers “Fund the 8%” campaign as outlined here: http://ashe-essex.org/fund-the-8/
Alternative paragraph 3 for non-parents:
Our local headteacher has outlined in a letter to parents that staffing levels are likely to be reduced, class sizes increased, pastoral provision reduced and the curricula choices for our children further restricted as a consequence. As a local resident concerned that our children receive due support to maximise their potential, I am dismayed that they will be denied the educational opportunities provided to past cohorts unless this funding gap is addressed.
If you can support this campaign, please share your concerns with your local MP and if you live in Essex, ask them to support the “Fund the 8%” campaign. As the national press are now highlighting, this is a national issue, so those outside the county are encouraged to contact their MPs in support of their local schools too.
MP email addresses are listed here:
Brentwood and Ongar residents can contact their MP at:
or on Twitter at @ericpickles using hashtag #schoolsjustwannahavefunds