Zöe's Blog: We need to fix school funding

May 24, 2018 6:53 PM

I've been a school governor since 2010 - first at a Sure Start Children's Centre and currently at my sons' primary school. It is a challenging and rewarding role that I would encourage more people to take up. Throughout my time there have been difficult decisions to make regarding allocation of resources but since 2015 these decisions have become much harder.

School budgets have been reduced again and again, school leadership teams have fine-tuned budgets so there is no 'waste' left and yet still the funding cuts keep coming from government. There is genuinely nothing left for the school to trim. If there are more cuts then parents will be asked to pay more and if the parents don't have the money then there will be a big problem.

The Conservative government tells us that schools are better funded than ever before. School budgets are telling us the opposite.

Non-government organisations are telling us the opposite too.

  • FullFact.org reported on 6/2/18 "Day to day funding for schools per pupil stayed at roughly the same level from 2010/11 to 2015/16, once rising prices are taken into account. After that, funding per pupil fell and since 2017/18 it has flattened out. Funding from 2017/18 to 2019/20 remains lower than 2015 levels."
  • A report by the Education Policy Unit highlights that the number of local authority maintained schools in deficit is up, government funding promises are failing to meet the real-terms financial needs of schools, and that with many schools having reached the limit of efficiency savings they will now have to consider cutting back on staff.
  • SchoolCuts.org.uk (a collaboration between the major teaching unions) stated that "91% of schools face real-terms budget cuts compared with 2015/16" and enable visitors to the site to find out the potential impact of cuts to their local schools by entering a school name or their postcode. It makes a depressing read.

Yesterday, after a governors meeting about our budget I posted this, "Just out of another challenging school budget meeting. Speaking to teacher and governor friends this is happening everywhere. Frankly schools do incredible things on very little. I take my hat off to school SLTs everywhere. Conservative government should hang its head in shame."

One commentator agreed with me and asked "what do you think should be done?"

This is what I think should happen.

For me, the top three things to stop the funding crisis in our schools are:

1. Reverse the funding cuts to schools and colleges.

At the last election the Lib Dems estimated that this would require an extra £7 billion over the course of the 5-year Yes this is a lot of money but, frankly speaking, this is about the future of our children, the next generation of leaders in business, society and government.

Without good, properly funded education:

  • children are will not reach their full potential
  • children will not grow to provide financially for themselves or their family
  • children will not have the skills for the workplace now or in ten years time

This is so important for individuals and for us as a society - if we want our country to remain economic and industry leaders then we must invest in our children and stop cutting school budgets.

2. Protect the pupil premium for disadvantaged children.

The pupil premium makes sure there is money for extra help for disadvantaged children.

Losing the pupil premium has a big impact and I have witnessed this first hand.

Across the country the pupil premium helps close the education gap for disadvantaged children - it helps fund important educational school trips for pupils who cannot afford to pay - it helps increase school attendance and provides extra support in areas including speech, language or family therapy.

The reality is simpe - without the pupil premium schools can not provide this additional support and we are quickly back in the 'bad old days' where the education gap between the most advantaged and disadvantaged pupils was huge and impossible to change, despite the best efforts of teachers.

3. Reverse the £50m Grammar School expansion.

At the same time as cutting money from ordinary schools in your community the Conservative government is pouring millions in to grammar schools - they want to try and bring back the past where there was a huge gap between grammar school children and everyone else. Research shows that grammar schools do not improve social mobility or the provide the educational benefits that the government claims.

I say cut the grammar school millions and put the money back into local schools so that every single young person gets the education they need, not just a few.