School funding: Still they do nothing...

Written by: Kevin Courtney | Published:
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, National Education Union

The noise being made over the school funding crisis has become deafening, yet still the government is choosing to ignore the evidence, says Kevin Courtney

The school funding crisis has been widely reported, demonstrations and rallies have been held drawing attention to the issue and MPs, the education secretary, the prime minister and the chancellor have all been written to.

Yet still government does nothing. As a consequence children and young people’s education continues to suffer and the working conditions of teachers and support staff deteriorate.

As government will not listen to the thousands of voices from both parents and the profession who have raised their serious concerns the National Education Union (NEU), National Association of Head Teachers, and the Association of School and College Leaders have taken the unprecedented step of consulting their members at the same time asking what the next step in our campaign to ensure all our schools are properly funded should be.

The NEU as part of our consultation is asking members if they would be prepared to take part in strike action to secure better funding for schools and the full implementation of the teachers’ pay award. We are urging all members to vote “yes”.

We know the impact that a lack of funding is having on the day-to-day running of our schools. It is becoming commonplace for headteachers to write begging letters to parents and carers asking for money for the basics, not luxuries.

Subjects are being cut from the curriculum, in particular arts subjects with music, dance and drama courses simply disappearing from schools. School building repairs are being left undone, the cost of heating has become an issue and many resources such as text books, pens and paper are regularly in short supply.

What a shambolic and shameful way for any government to run education. As one of the richest countries in the world we really can give children an education that goes beyond the absolute basics.

The other impact the funding crisis is having is on teacher workload. We know teachers have for years been desperately overworked with endless accountability and tick-box measures that have nothing to do with providing a better education for children but are just endless data collection exercises.

The Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted are aware of this monster they have created and its limited value.

And while they have taken some steps to address the problem, they have gone nowhere near far enough to right their wrongs and we continue to campaign on this matter.

Added to this already unworkable situation, the funding cuts in schools have led to many staff shortages. Headteachers have had to cut back support staff and where teacher and support staff vacancies arise they are often not replaced.

Class sizes have had to increase as a result, which is bad enough in itself, but now in many cases teachers are having to cope without sufficient additional support.

Clearly this is having a negative and heavy impact on teacher workload. An NEU survey in April showed that 80 per cent of teachers are seriously considering leaving the profession due to workload.

No profession can sustain such losses and as the funding crisis continues this figure will remain desperately high.
While we await the results of the consultation our campaign continues. Last Friday (November 30) was the NEU’s Funding Friday, with schools and colleges up and down the country holding meetings to discuss fair funding for education and giving an opportunity for school staff to discuss the consultation.

Schools, parents and many MPs will not put up with this situation that is impoverishing children and young people’s education and driving far too many good teachers out of the profession.

Education was a game-changer in the last election. The Conservative Party needs to remember this and address the funding crisis in our schools.

  • Kevin Courtney is joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

Further information

For more details on the NEU campaign, visit https://neu.org.uk/hands-up


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