We need a clearer plan for spending on education

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Brian Shimell is unequivocal about what makes Priory School so special. ‘The boundless enthusiasm of our young people, their determination to make a difference and their passion for a better world’ is his instant answer.

Odd then, on the face of it, that he has decided to quit early as headteacher of the Southsea comprehensive.

But a lot falls into place when you examine his reasoning. Much as he loves his work at Priory, where he has been in charge for 14 years, and much as he takes pride in what his young charges have gone on to achieve, he has been left disillusioned by the scrapping of the promised multi-million pound injection of funds into the school.

Priory had secured £15m of funding in the Building Schools for the Future programme initiated by the previous government and this, says Mr Shimell, was more than enough reason for him to continue in his role.

But that funding was pulled in one fell swoop by the present government – and as a direct result, Mr Shimell feels that at the age of 61 he might as well leave now rather than wait for a new promise of substantial cash which he fears will never come in the remainder of his working life.

How many headteachers, we wonder, find themselves with the same doubts? Some, like Mr Shimell, may have decided to call it quits. Others will have stayed on in the job, but with perhaps less confidence in the short-term future.

That future is uncertain, to say the least, with Education Secretary Michael Gove told only last week by the High Court that he must reconsider his decision to scrap the £55bn Building Schools for the Future scheme after Mr Justice Holman ruled in favour of six local authorities that complained the government had unlawfully failed to consult them before imposing the cuts.

The government insists it is committed to education and to funding it. Whatever their political hue, governments have to do that.

But when people like Mr Shimell decide enough is enough, we have to wonder how well the message is getting through.