Headteachers march on Parliament over funding crisis

Richard Carlyle - Headteacher Portchester Community School
Richard Carlyle - Headteacher Portchester Community School

HEADTEACHERS are taking action after eight years of budget cuts that have led to an educational cocktail of redundancy, under-resourced departments and dilapidated schools.

More than 100 teaching leaders from Portsmouth and across Havant, Gosport and Fareham will be descending on parliament to demand a budget that is ‘fit for purpose’.

Headteacher Julie Summerfield

Headteacher Julie Summerfield

They will be joined by 1,000 colleagues across the country who hand over a petition demanding that the government improve school funding.

Heads in the area say a new pay deal for teachers is unfunded and has made their funding crisis worse – with some reports schools have asked parents to contribute financially.

Classes may have to be combined and exceed the 30 pupils, campaigners warn.

Ian Gates, secondary school headteacher at The Cowplain School, said: ‘I am going on the march – enough is enough.

Portsmouth College Principal - Simon Barrable

Portsmouth College Principal - Simon Barrable

‘We need properly funded schools for the future of our country. The budget as it stands is simply not fit for purpose.

‘Some schools are funded 70 per cent greater than schools here in Hampshire yet we are all judged against the same parameters.

‘This new funding system is not fit for purpose. As headteachers we are massively accountable, and rightly so, but we are simply not being given the resources to maximise performance.’

‘What we need is for the public to place pressure on the government. 

Hampshire Headteacher and regional march coordinator Tony Markham

Hampshire Headteacher and regional march coordinator Tony Markham

‘I would urge any parent to question what the government are doing as we need all our schools to be sufficiently funded,’ explained Mr Gates.’

It comes as a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed school budgets have been slashed by eight per cent since 2010 in real terms.

Leaders at the National Education Union previously told The News changes to school funding would be ‘catastrophic’ for Portsmouth schools.

Portchester Community School headteacher, Richard Carlyle, said: ‘At my school we are going to be £140,000 down due to the changes.

Arundel Primary Academy Headteacher - Karen Stocks

Arundel Primary Academy Headteacher - Karen Stocks

‘It is supposed to be a fair distribution but the biggest losses are in those areas of greatest deprivation.

‘All you are doing is moving around the same pot of money which isn’t large enough in the first place.

‘This will lead to larger teaching groups and schools being unable to replace teaching staff.’

Headteachers insist the London march on Friday about maintaining standards – not their pay.

Headteacher of Peel Common Nursery and Infant School in Gosport, Lesley Spicer, said: ‘It is not about pay – it is about children’s learning.’

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Lesley Spicer - Headteacher at Peel Common Nursery and Infant School in Gosport alongside Stuart Calvert - Headteacher Marchwood Church of England School

Lesley Spicer - Headteacher at Peel Common Nursery and Infant School in Gosport alongside Stuart Calvert - Headteacher Marchwood Church of England School

Primary schools in Portsmouth fear they will be worse off under the new funding regime.

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.’

Julie Summerfield, headteacher at Horndean Technology College said it has got to the point where action needs to be taken.

‘I receive about £4,000 to educate a child for a year,’ she said.

You couldn’t fit a new kitchen for that.

‘The situation has been compounded by a pay rise which isn’t being funded and so I have to somehow fund the increase from elsewhere.’

Yvonne Watkins, headteacher at Bourne Community College in Emsworth, feels compelled to join the march in support of her students who she believes are not getting a fair deal.

‘I have a fantastic set of children but they are quite simply not getting the same deal as other students elsewhere in the country,’ Mrs Watkins said.

Tony Markham is the headteacher of Petersfield’s The Herne School. He is protest co-ordinator for the county of Hampshire,

Mr Markham said: ‘The current funding system is unfair and not fit for purpose. It has got to the point where we have made all the cuts we possibly can. We are asking the government to provide a funding formula based on what you actually need to run a primary or secondary school.’

The headteachers are gathering in Parliament Square at 10.30am before six nominated members, including Mr Markahm, will march with the petition to be submitted to the Treasury at 11 Downing Street.

‘We want to influence a full spending review on how schools are funded,’ Mr Markham said.

With more than 1,000 headteachers marching on parliament then surely the government can’t ignore it.’

Two of the key demands they have are:

n Fund all schools adequately and reduce the real term cuts of the last eight years.

n Make a £400 million cash injection to support SEND and high needs students.