OCOS activist Kiri Tunks writes on the campaign for fair funding for our schools:
|Fair Funding meeting in Lambeth, 15 March, with 350 parents present...
The government claims that school funding is protected; that the funding per child is the same; that they are equalising funding inequities across the UK.
But this simply isn’t true.
The government has accused teaching unions and parent campaigns of scaremongering but, in fact, we are witnessing the largest real term cuts in education funding since the 1970s.
Using statistics from the DFE, the National Audit Office and the Institute of Fiscal Studies, education trade unions have created the School Cuts website. Just enter the name or postcode of your local school to see the cuts it is likely to face.
This analysis of the impact of the government’s policy on schools around the UK shows the truth is rather different.
Funding per child is not in line with inflation so claiming it is the same is disingenuous because in real terms it simply won’t cover the same costs.
On top of that, the government has put more costs on to school budgets without increasing funding to cover them. These are things like the apprenticeship levy, the annual pay awards to staff and salary increases, increases in the teachers’ pension scheme and National Insurance costs as well as other inflationary pressures on non-staff spending.
None of these things are in the control of the schools and colleges and yet they will have to find a way to pay them with no extra money being given to cover them.
What does this mean?
The only way a school can increase its funding is to increase the number of children on roll without increasing its staff allocation.
So we are already seeing:
- Increased class sizes
- Teachers teaching out of their specialism
- A reduction in Teaching Assistants and administrative support
- Unqualified/inexperienced/cheap teachers and support staff
- Staff pay being held down unfairly and their conditions worsening
- Staff leaving or not being replaced
- The narrowing of the curriculum as schools focus goes on core/EBacc subjects
- Cuts to all “non-essential” activities such as trips or libraries or
- Lack of resources – teachers are reporting a lack of pencils, glue and paper
This isn’t scaremongering. This is reporting from the front line.
And it is going to get worse.
How bad are the cuts?
According to statistics from the National Audit Office, these are the largest real-term funding cuts in education since the 1970s . The current proposals are already a huge change compared with funding under the last coalition government.
So we are looking at:
- 8% real term reduction in per pupil funding for mainstream schools 2014-2020
- UK mainstream schools needing to make savings of £3bn
- 60.6% of academies saying they have overspent their budget
What about the improved National Funding Formula?
The National Funding Formula is the system by which schools are funded. Previously, this money would go to the Local Authority who would decide how to divide up the cash. Now schools are being funded directly. The government say that the National Funding Formal needed to be revised as funds were not fairly shared out.
It is true that the National Funding Formula needs an overhaul. There is a postcode lottery and there are many places around the UK where schools are simply not getting enough money. However, the funding disparities are not as bad as has been claimed with statistics showing that funding has, largely, followed area costs and child poverty levels. Even so, the new NFF means that nearly every area is seeing their funding levelled down rather than levelled up.
Put together this means that 98.5% of schools, and 100% of colleges, are set to have per pupil funding cut in real terms.
- £339 average loss per primary pupil
- £477 average loss per secondary pupil
The cuts are not evenly spread and are regressive with the poorest areas receiving the highest cuts
- £447 average loss per primary pupil
- £658 average loss per secondary pupil
In Waltham Forest, cuts will look like this:
- £20,185,760 loss in funding by 2019
- £538 average loss per pupil
- 541 fewer teachers
The cuts are universal with no school spared. Academies & Free schools are among the worst hit:
- West London Free Schools £1,016 per pupil
- Mossbourne Academy £965 per pupil
- Ark Schools £701 per pupil
- Harris £671 per pupil
- Oasis £609 per pupil
And Conservative areas are being hit too. Even the last Chancellor, George Osborne, has met with Education Secretary, Justine Greening, to share his concerns about the cuts. She must be worried herself as schools in her own constituency of Putney are looking at cuts of between £655-£834 per pupil.
Even the claim of an “NFF Floor” which was meant to guarantee that no school would lose more than 3% of their funding doesn’t hold water. This ‘guarantee’ is akin to safeguarding, so the floor will stay at same level until the NFF authorises an increase. In effect, this will mean 5,300 schools receiving flat cash funding for years up to 2025 and beyond.
The Department for Education will tell anyone who listens that the numbers on the School Cuts website are speculation and spin. They need to be reminded that these figures are the government’s own figures and that these calculations have been endorsed by reliable independent bodies. Additionally, the website is endorsed by the NUT, the ATL, the GMB, Unite, NAHT and Unison.
The sources are:
- Schools funding allocation for 2015/16 from the Department for Education
- National Funding Formula consultation data from the Department for Education
- National Audit Office estimate of school costs
Furthermore, the calculations have been upheld by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Who else is worried?
Parents all over the countries are getting organised under the Fair Funding for All banner. There have been huge public meetings and demonstrations all over the UK such from Haringey to Cheshire, from Lambeth to Shrewsbury.
Schools in previously better-funded areas have been able to make real improvements in the quality of their provision. This has only been achieved because schools have been able to invest in staff, resources, training and infrastructure. Without that money, we will see standards and conditions rolling backwards.
We want all schools to have the necessary money to make these improvements. And a country that is the fifth richest in the world should be able to find the necessary money.
What we need to do
There are indications are that government is starting to backtrack on NFF at least but this is not time to take our foot off the pedal. We need to press harder.
Now is the time to increase the pressure
1) Use the www.schoolcuts.org.uk website to find out how your local school will be hit.
Share the figures on Facebook and Twitter
Talk to other parents about them
Sign the petition via the site
Email your MP via the site
2) Respond to the government’s consultation before 22nd March. The government is consulting on its new formula for distributing school funds and it’s vital that lots of us respond.
Here’s how to do it:
- Visit https://consult.education.gov.uk/funding-policy-unit/schools-national-funding-formula2/consultation/intro/ and enter your details
- Go to question 1 and tick ‘no’ (There are 19 questions in total but you don’t have to answer them all. It’s most important that you answer the first.)
- Fill in any other bits you want and submit the response
- If you would like further guidance on completing the consultation, have a look at the guide on the website http://www.fairfundingforallschools.org/resource.html
- Sign the petition - https://www.change.org/p/stop-school-funding-cuts-all-our-children-deserve-a-great-education
3) Write a letter or E-mail to your MP
You can find a template letter to use and more information about this on the resources page of the Fair Funding For All Schools website (http://www.fairfundingforallschools.org/resource.html)
4) Start a campaign at your school
Parents in the Fair Funding Campaign have been setting themselves up as school reps and working with other parents to raise awareness.
- Talk to other parents
- Talk to the Headteacher
- Ask if s/he will write a letter to Justine Greening
- Will she let you organize a meeting for parents in the school
- Contact us and let us know what is happening and how we can help
5) Join the campaign on Social Media
Join the conversation online, help us to reach other parents, and keep up to date with campaign developments by joining our Facebook group
Some Twitter accounts to follow are
Help raise the profile of the campaign by tweeting about it using
The voices of parents matter and have real power. Let’s work together to build a campaign to stop these cuts. With our allies, we are a formidable force.
Many thanks to @FairFundSchools and @FairFundLambeth for their links and resources