School heads speak out on the real implications of cuts to budgets

HEADTEACHERS, union leaders and politicians have united to raise serious concerns over schools funding.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 8:11 am
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 9:19 am
Headteachers are concerned that their schools will be far worse off. Picture: Shutterstock

The warning comes as schools start a transitional period moving towards the government's new funding formula with the process due for completion in 2020.

Figures released from joint research carried out by the teaching unions claim that 50 out of 56 Portsmouth schools will be financially worse off by 2020 compared to 2015.

National Education Union vice-president Amanda Martin, a Portsmouth teacher, said: '˜The National Funding Formula is going to be catastrophic for schools and education in this city.'

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Headteacher at Portchester Community School, Richard Carlyle said: '˜As a school we are going to be £140,000 down due to the changes. The biggest losses are in those areas of greatest deprivation.'

The unions' research suggests that the new funding system will result in £3.7m less funding for Portsmouth schools by 2020 at an average reduction of £155 per student.

'˜All you are doing is moving around the same pot of money which isn't large enough in the first place. Ultimately this will lead to larger teaching groups and schools being unable to replace teaching staff,' added Mr Carlyle.

In particular the area's inner-city primary schools look set to suffer.

Headteacher at Arundel Court Primary Academy Karen Stocks said: '˜Under the new formula we are going to be far worse off. We are going to lose around £80,000 over the next two years. We are one of eight primary schools in the city centre where there are high levels of deprivation yet between us we are going to be losing £270,000 from our budgets.'

Ms Stocks believes such cuts simply aren't sustainable and force headteachers into making economic as opposed to educational decisions.

'˜We have a 'reading and recovery teacher' retiring and we are unable to replace her. This is despite it being essential we have this expertise in a school where children arrive with low levels of literacy. We rely on 'reading and recovery' teachers, attendance officers and specially trained counsellors. Some of those roles schools are simply going to have to cut,' explained Ms Stocks.

Headteacher at St Edmund's Catholic School, Simon Graham, is also concerned about the situation. '˜You can't make the funding formula work universally. For some it is never going to be fair. Funding is a real issue though as the cost of everything is rising yet funding isn't,' said Mr Graham

It is not just the advent of the new funding formula which headteachers believe has resulted in the current funding situation.

As executive headteacher of the Salterns Trust, Steve Labedz is responsible for Trafalgar and Admiral Lord Nelson schools.

'˜Since 2010 both nationally and here in Portsmouth, schools have lost 10 per cent of their budgets in real terms. Whilst the government have stuck to their promise of not reducing core per pupil funding, what they have done is reduce everything else and scrapped half the additional grants that used to exist by which you could function,' explained Mr Labedz.

Portsmouth City Council's cabinet member for education, Councillor Suzy Horton, believes the chronic lack of funding cannot continue.

'˜The government needs to be investing more money in education. The local authority does a good job in managing ever-decreasing and meagre resources. The money is there, it is just being spent in other areas,' said Cllr Horton.

The situation has led to the launch of the '˜WorthLess?' campaign which will see over 1,000 headteachers gather in Parliament Square on September 28 to deliver a petition to the chancellor.

Mr Carlyle is one of several local headteachers taking part. '˜It feels like there is no point in taking this to the Secretary of State for Education, we need to direct this at the Treasury,' said Mr Carlyle.

'˜It is all about investment in children. Do we believe the future is our kids? Of course it is so let's invest in their education,' added Mr Labedz.

Portchester's Richard Carlyle believes some schools are now having to restrict student options due to the costs of funding certain subjects.

'˜Some schools no longer teach technology as a subject due to it being expensive,' said Mr Carlyle.

Aside from having to cater for the educational needs of students, headteachers also have to fund the maintenance of the school environment.

Since Michael Gove announced the abolition of the '˜Building Schools for the Future' programme many local schools are now having to undertake maintenance work from their central budgets. This means that necessities such as roof repairs and refurbishment of classrooms are redirecting money away from core budgets whose primary purpose is to educate students.

'˜Where are we going to get the money for school investment because the '˜Building Schools for the Future' was supposed to support that? This building is 50 years old,' said Mr Graham.

The new national funding formula was designed with the purpose of redirecting money to areas of highest deprivation yet the consensus of many headteachers is that for Portsmouth schools it is doing the exact opposite.

'˜Before the national funding formula schools with high levels of deprivation were funded quite generously by Portsmouth Council. Under the new distribution we are going to be worse off,' explained Ms Stocks.

'˜The biggest areas of funding loss have been in the areas of greatest deprivation,' added Mr Carlyle.

At the same time as finances become restrictive, expectation increases.

Whether increased student attainment, curriculum provision or dealing with the social welfare the bar of expectation for schools is constantly being raised whilst the resources to achieve this are removed.

'˜Ultimately school budgets as they stand are not fit for purpose if we want schools to continue under their current expectations.

'˜We cannot carry on doing all the things we do on the current funding.

'˜We will have to make harsh decisions which may involve not having a welfare team or removing certain subjects from the curriculum,' said Mr Labedz.