Headteachers call for action over school funding crisis

Speakers at the meeting at Lancaster Town Hall.
Speakers at the meeting at Lancaster Town Hall.
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Class sizes will increase, teachers and support staff will be slashed and children will suffer from cuts to education budgets, a public meeting in Lancaster heard this week.

Headteachers warned that there were “no more efficiencies to make”, as schools across the country are set to lose out on £3bn worth of funding.

In the Lancaster district, this is the equivalent of around four full-time teacher salaries per school, per year.

Unions are plannning several days of action in 2017, and parents were encouraged to speak to other parents at the school gates about how schools are losing out.

Siobhan Collingwood, headteacher at Morecambe Bay Primary School, said: “It’s never been as bad as it is now. I said that last year but it went and got worse. We did not see the sweeping cuts that were coming.

“We’re constantly having to compromise our principles, and it’s not a satisfying experience.”

She said children are becoming “switched off” by primary school testing, and that children were being declared failures aged 11 due to “not having met expected standards”.

Union leaders present at the packed meeting at Lancaster Town Hall On March 27 said teaching assistants, staff training, learning mentors, pastoral support, subjects such as art, music, drama and dance, kitchen staff and many other roles and resources faced the axe because schools were 
being asked to do more with less.

One school governor who attended the meeting suggested that a non-unionised collective of school governors should be set up to create a stronger voice.

A rally is due to take place in Lancaster on April 29.

Concerns were also raised about child mental health and how further cuts to pastoral and SEN provision would make the situation worse.

Kevin Courtney, national general secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “The government says that over half of the schools in the country are getting more cash, but what they don’t tell you is it’s not enough to keep up with funding pressures.

“The half truths being put out there are meant to disguise the truth from parents.

“They’re increasing how much National Insurance schools need to pay, but they’re not funding it.

“They’re applying the apprentice levy, but not funding it.

“They’ve agreed a small pay rise, but haven’t given the governors the money to pay it.

“We’re talking about an 8.7 per cent cut to school budgets during this parliament.

“The government has made a political mistake.

“For rural schools, whether those schools are able to survive at all is based on this funding formula.”

Ms Collingwood said she had sent out surveys to headteachers across the district, and received replies almost immediately.

Some said they would not be able to replace TAs and there would be cuts to learning mentors and free breakfast clubs, which would lead to higher absence levels and more referrals to social services.

One headteacher commented: “I can’t see any way out of this mess.”

Keith Bradley, regional officer from UNISON, said: “We’re being hammered. We represent TAs, kitchen staff, lab staff, and cleaners.

“We’re seeing outsourcing of support services. We’re facing an uphill battle. Our members are dealing with vulnerable children and are really worried about the future.”

Special needs teacher Audrey Glover, from Lancaster and Morecambe NUT, said: “This is becoming a life and death issue for children.

“Kids from local schools are going to hospital because they’ve attempted to take their own lives.

“This is absolutely political the attacks this government is making. We should be marching on parliament.”

Ruth Ainsworth, from Lancaster and Morecambe Parents Defending Education group, said that a narrow and irrelevant curriculum, fear of failure, and mental health issues in children had galvanised parents into action.

She said: “The government has counted on us going away. But we haven’t, for our kids future.

“The good news is that people are mobilising all over the country, and the government are absolutely terrified of us.

“We’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Visit www.schoolcuts.org.uk for more information about how your school is affected.