Headteachers ask would-be Hampshire MPs to secure fair funding for schools as manifestos 'promise everything'

HEADTEACHERS have taken the unprecedented step of writing to candidates in the upcoming general election outlining their demands for fairer funding.

Saturday, 30th November 2019, 9:36 am
Head teachers lobbying Parliament during last year's Downing Street march. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Senior teaching leaders are warning would-be MPs that education should not be used as a ‘political football’ - pointing out all sides are ‘promising everything’.

Schools and colleges in the wider area are backing the WorthLess Campaign’s letter as teachers struggle to contend with classroom budgets.

Growing demands for schools to take on mental health and social care responsibilities are also putting pressure on headteachers.

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Petersfield headteacher and WorthLess Campaign leader for Hampshire, Tony Markham, leaving Downing Street after last year's march on Parliament. Picture : Neil Fatkin

The letter, seen by The News, said: ‘Headteachers will not be gagged.’

It added: ‘As we approach a general election, headteachers do not want schools to simply become another political football that is kicked around by various parties.

‘Instead, we want to engage with every candidate to ensure they have access to legitimate and factual information that can support their work.’

Petersfield headteacher Tony Markham is the WorthLess Campaign leader for Hampshire.

Horndean Technology College head teacher, Julie Summerfield, believes there needs to be greater clarity over revenue streams and costs. Picture by: Malcolm Wells

He said: ‘The fact this is the first time headteachers have taken this action shows the strength of feeling that, whoever comes into power, education needs to be adequately funded.’

The WorthLess Campaign letter demands ‘urgently required’ funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities, increased funding to redress the real terms budget decrease, clarity over future costs and revenue streams, and that all funding should be allocated directly to schools.

Hampshire pupils are set to be fourth lowest funded in the country at a rate of £5,812 per student in the next academic year. The national average is £6,371.

Children taught in Portsmouth are set for £6,382 per pupil. By comparison children in the deprived London borough of Tower Hamlets receive £9,425 per pupil.

Labour's Amanda Martin. Picture: Habibur Rahman

The letter has been penned by the WorthLess Campaign and set to be distributed to teaching leaders for onward posting to candidates.

Among those supporting the letter’s aims is St Edmund’s Catholic School headteacher, Simon Graham.

He said: ‘The most important thing to remember is that we as a city want our young people to have the same opportunities and experiences as other children in education throughout the country.’

Horndean Technology College headteacher Julie Summerfield added: ‘I totally agree with the priorities set out in the letter. At present there’s very little clarity as to how much money we will have in the future.

Portsmouth North candidate, Penny Mordaunt. Picture: Habibur Rahman

‘The current distribution does not always meet schools needs as within Hampshire there are affluent areas receiving the same pupil funding as disadvantaged areas such as Leigh Park who have a concentration of social issues.’

While welcoming party manifesto pledges of a future pay rise for teachers, Mrs Summerfield is concerned as to how this will be funded.

She said: ‘There’s talk from politicians about introducing a £30,000 starting salary to encourage teachers into the profession but are they going to pay for this?’

One of the key concerns highlighted in the letter is the increased burden placed on schools dealing with children’s mental health and social care without the required funding and training.

The Cowplain School’s Ian Gates, said: ‘Schools are also having to pick up additional responsibilities such as mental health and social care.’

The letter tells would-be MPs it wants the minimum per pupil funding for post-16 education to hit £4,760 from the current rate of £4,000 set in 2010.

Portsmouth South candidate, Gerald Vernon-Jackson. Picture: Sarah Standing

Portsmouth College principal Simon Barrable said: ‘As a college, we are also fully aware of the funding difficulties faced by our primary and secondary school colleagues and unequivocally back their requests for fairer funding.’

Portsmouth College principal, Simon Barrable, has endorsed the letter and the message for improved funding for post-16 education. Picture: Habibur Rahman