School funding: A call to action

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

The average secondary school faces real-term, per-year losses of £178,321. With a mass lobby of Parliament planned, Kevin Courtney says enough is enough

Thanks to the campaigning of parents, teachers, headteachers and school staff, school funding became one of the defining issues in the General Election.

It resulted in Justine Greening discovering an additional £1.3 billion over two years for school funding. But we can’t rest yet as the £1.3 billon (itself being taken from other areas of education spending) falls well short of redressing the £2.8 billion real-terms cut in funding that schools have suffered since 2015, let alone covering the impact of cost increases in coming years.

Secondary schools with sixth forms and specialist sixth form colleges have been hit even harder by the huge real-terms cuts to 16 to 19 funding imposed since 2010.

The joint education union School Cuts website has been updated to reflect the school funding figures published by the Department for Education (DfE) when it confirmed its intention to introduce a new national funding formula last month (School leaders say £2bn more a year is needed to off-set real-terms cuts, SecEd, September 2017:

The site sets out what the government’s plans really mean for each individual school, comparing the funding it now plans to give schools to the funding they were receiving when the government took office in 2015, once the impact of inflation and other cost increases have been taken into account.

You can type in your postcode and see if your school is affected. With 88 per cent of schools set to lose out, the chances are fairly high that you will not like what you see.

For secondary schools, the losses per-year are simply unmanageable, with the average secondary school set to be worse off by £178,321 per-year in real terms. No headteacher can absorb such pressure on their budget and we are already seeing the impact of the government’s failure to protect funding in terms of cuts to the curriculum offer, loss of support staff, and cuts in enrichment activities and resources.

We cannot expect headteachers to struggle on with such inadequate funding. The government has failed to grasp that schools have already been working for several years to secure savings in anticipation of difficult times ahead. It is utterly demoralising to seek to manage schools by cutting corners, focusing on subjects that have to be dropped and educational experiences that can no longer be offered. There is really no more room for manoeuvre.

Education in 2017 needs to be about much more than a basic cut-price learning process. That’s why ASCL, NAHT, GMB, Unison, Unite and the National Education Union are holding a mass lobby of Parliament against School Cuts on October 24.

We have to show MPs that this issue isn’t going away, that parents, teachers and support staff know the facts about school funding and that they expect real action.

Schools have cut the number of secondary teachers by 12,000 over the last two years and they will need to cut another 11,000 more to balance the books over the next couple of years. This is at the same time as the largest rise in secondary school students in a generation.

The Chancellor’s forthcoming Budget speech in November or December is the obvious opportunity for the government to show it has changed course. The time to put on pressure is now.

So, please join parents, other school staff and community representatives at Parliament on October 24 to meet your MP and ask them for a commitment to reverse school cuts – sign up for the lobby on the School Cuts website.

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

School Cuts

The joint union School Cuts website can be found at


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