Thursday, 23 February 2017

Waltham Forest schools face a funding meltdown – parents need to organise in response

'Parents will start to see staff being let go this year. They will see bigger class sizes, fewer subjects on offer. They will see the person looking after special education needs go, and all those other additional services disappear'.  Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Headteachers

Parents need to have their voice heard

Welcome to state education in 2017 - a system on the brink as schools face a growing financial crisis which threatens the education of children across England. It seems barely a day goes by lately without new stories of schools taking increasingly drastic action to balance books in the face of the worst funding cuts in a generation.

The Fair Funding for All Schools campaign is bringing together a coalition of parents across all parts of the country to stop the cuts and make the case for investment in our schools, our children and our future.

Parents in Waltham Forest, with their proud legacy of fighting for progressive and inclusive state education, are urged to join the fight.

Why is there a growing funding crisis in our schools?

Despite the Department for Education’s claim that the government has “protected the national schools budget in real terms for the duration of the Parliament”, evidence shows that per pupil funding is set to decrease over this period. The National Audit Office say that the government’s spending plans do not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. With over 450k growth in pupil numbers, funding per pupil is only rising by 1.3 per cent between 2015/16 and 2019/20.

At the same time, schools are facing increasing cost pressures. Pay rises, the introduction of the National Living Wage, higher contributions to National Insurance and the teacher pension scheme, non-pay inflation and the Apprenticeship Levy mean significant additional costs for schools. The NAO says that these cost pressures will force schools to find £3bn in savings  – equating to an 8 per cent real terms reduction per year in pupil funding by 2020. Schools have not experienced this level of reduction in spending power since the mid-1990s.

These figures don’t take into account other cost pressures created by the government, for example by reducing the Education Services Grant which provides funding to local authorities and academies for education services, e.g. school improvement and Special Educational Needs, schools will now need to pay more for those services.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors Association puts it starkly “the organisations who speak for school leaders, including business leaders, are saying the same thing as we are: there simply is no longer enough money in the total pot to sustain adequately all schools in England”

What will be the impact on our schools?

This is going to have a massive impact on your schools. It is clear that every state school in the country is already facing a worsening financial situation. The number of Secondary schools spending more than their income doubled to over 60 per cent in the last five years.

The government expects schools to find two thirds of the £3bn savings through cutting staff costs. The NAO reports that spending on teaching staff fell from 56 per cent to 51 per cent from 2010 to 2015 in maintained schools and from 55 per cent to 52 per cent in academies over the same period. 

The latest schools census shows that last year there were 17,780 state secondary pupils taught in classes with 36 or more pupils – the highest number for a decade. The days of large classes are returning.

Schools facing increasingly difficult financial positions have turned to asking parents for termly cash payments to supplement core school budgets, three schools in my part of London have written to parents asking for termly donations of £30 - £50 per family to supplement school budgets.

Things in Waltham Forest are set to get even worse

For schools in Waltham Forest things are set to get even worse. In April 2018 the government will be introducing a new National Funding Formula (NFF) – the aim of which is to ensure more transparent and equal funding for pupils across all schools in England, addressing historical imbalances.

However, the government will achieve this by redistributing money between schools from a total pot that is shrinking in real terms. And therefore, according to the government’s own figures, 49 per cent of schools in England will lose even more funding with over 2 million children in the worst affected schools.

The impact of the NFF will be felt most obviously in large cities such as London and Manchester – London Councils report that 70 per cent of schools across Greater London will face budget cuts in a climate when school finances are already struggling.

According to analysis by the NUT, the total estimated reduction across all schools in Waltham Forest in real terms by 2020 will be over £20m. That works out at around a £538 reduction for every pupil in the Borough, the equivalent of the salaries of 541 teachers.

But this is not just an issue for London. The Times Education Supplement notes that the majority of those who are set to gain out of the NFF changes will still stand to lose out as increases will insufficient to meet funding shortfalls highlighted by the NAO.

Analysis by teaching unions indicates that around 98 per cent of schools in England will be net losers as a result of the combination of real-terms reductions, additional costs, growing pupil numbers and the impact of the NFF.

And, of course, the NFF will be directing money directly from Whitehall to individual schools – making it much more difficult for allocations to be informed by the kind of local knowledge available to schools forums – and cutting Local Authorities further out of the loop, thereby furnishing the way for further academisation.

Fair Funding for All Schools

Fair Funding for All Schools is a network of parents from all parts of England, that want the government to listen to our concerns about the funding situation facing state schools across the country.

We have two key asks of the government:

  • Increase investment in all schools by protecting per-pupil funding in real terms for the life of this Parliament
  • Provide the additional funding needed to implement the National Funding Formula that increases funding for maintained schools and academies in comparatively poorly funded areas of England without cutting funding per pupil for schools in any other part of the country, so that no school loses out.

Taking our inspiration from the brilliant work of campaign groups like Our Community – Our Schools we have been bringing together parent campaigners new and old, including many existing groups that have been active in the fight against free schools and academies in their area, in a national coalition to make the case for proper investment in state education.

We are staging public meetings at schools, meeting with MPs, representing parent voice in Westminster, holding days of action and generally getting our voice heard. We need the voice of Waltham Forest parents to be heard too.

Our website has a range of materials that parents can use, you can sign and share our petition, use our guide and model answers to respond to the DFE consultation on the NFF and download model letters to MPs, councillors and the press.

Please join the fight.





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