“Potholes or pupils – which is more important?” Hampshire headteachers attack chancellor’s budget 

Headteachers from across England and Wales protesting in Parliament Square in September Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
Headteachers from across England and Wales protesting in Parliament Square in September Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

THE REGION’S headteachers have hit out at the government prioritising the repair of potholes over the education of Portsmouth’s children.  

The recent budget said that while schools are to receive a one-off payment of £400m the repair of the country’s pothole problem has been allocated £20m more.

Horndean Technology College Headteacher, Julie Summerfield

Horndean Technology College Headteacher, Julie Summerfield

Hampshire headteacher and regional co-ordinator of the Worth Less Campaign, Tony Markham, said: ‘Despite 2,000 headteachers marching on Parliament to express their concerns over eight years of funding cuts this government has indicated solving the issue of potholes has a higher priority than the education of our children.’

READ MORE: Headteachers march on Whitehall to protest against cuts

The one-off investment is estimated to equate to on average a £10,000 single payment to primary schools and £50,000 to secondary. Headteachers feel the payment is a ‘token gesture’ which does little to redress almost a decade of cuts. Headteacher at Cowplain School, Ian Gates, has taken issue with condescending nature of the terminology used by the Chancellor.

Mr Gates said: ‘It’s extremely insulting and patronising for teachers, parents and children who simply want adequate funding for our schools to be told we will receive a relatively tiny one-off payment to pay for “little extras”. It appears the Chancellor has ignored our reasonable requests to fund schools adequately and in a sustainable way. The total value of £400m doesn’t come close to the billions lost in funding over the last few years and is even less than what the government is saying it will pay for potholes to be fixed.’

Headteacher at Horndean Technology College, Julie Summerfield, is also frustrated by the nature of the proposed payment.

‘This one-off payment does nothing to solve the long-term problem, it simply papers over the cracks. I can’t use the money to employ an additional teacher as it is not annual funding. It is a pay-off from the government as a peacemaker. We have schools in the area which were constructed in the fifties and sixties which were never built to last this long. I have science labs which need replacing which will cost £100,000 each – this is a drop in the ocean to what is required,’ said Mrs Summerfield.

One of the key demands from headteachers was the immediate injection of £400m to tackle a chronic shortage of funding for students with special educational needs and disabilities.

National Education Union vice president, Amanda Martin, is aggrieved that nothing has been done to address the support for the city’s most vulnerable children.

Ms Martin said: ‘SEND children need urgent education funding, more than 2,000 children are still awaiting appropriate provision. But there was no attempt by the government to address the crisis in SEND.’

Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, feels the government have ignored the voice of of thousands of professionals.

Mr Morgan said: ‘I’m stunned that the Government would disregard hundreds of thousands of teachers, parents, heads and governors calling for a reversal of cuts - including a growing number here in Portsmouth.’

COMMENT BY EDUCATION REPORTER NEIL FATKIN

After 16 years in the teaching profession I have never known such a depth of feeling and borderline desperation regarding school funding. The Worth Less campaign, championed by The News, is not about teacher’s pay but about adequately funding children’s education. In any profession there is invariably a culture of wanting more but for 2000 headteachers to march on Parliament is unprecedented.

This is not a militant group and their actions and showed they had reached breaking point. Yet the Chancellor chose to direct more money towards the repair of potholes than funding education. Even on a purely political level it is a decision difficult to comprehend.

Whilst headline figures are often bandied around, the underlying implications can often be lost in a saturation of incomprehensible figures. What should concern parents is the real-life implications being felt in the classroom.

Bans on photocopying and the purchase of text books, growing class sizes, letters requesting parental contributions, non specialist and unqualified teachers, cuts to SEND support and the removal of subjects from the curriculum - this is the reality of the restrictions currently afflicting our schools. Yet the government chose to ignore the advice of the people who know best – the region’s headteachers, charged with the task of running our schools.