Bett 2018: Resource Our Schools

Written by: Patrick Hayes | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

As many schools reduce their spending on classroom resources and technology in light of budget pressures, Patrick Hayes reports on a new campaign urging better funding for education resources

Despite tightening budgets, it remains vital to resource our schools.

Across the UK, schools have been reducing their resources expenditure in 2017. The reality is worse than at during any time in the past 15 years, according to the most recent procurement research carried out by the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

BESA undertakes quarterly research with the National Education Research Panel (NERP).

This involves a representative sample of headteachers from across the UK. Our most recent research report found that the forecast for spending on resources in secondary schools in 2017 was a 4.8 per cent reduction in expenditure year-on-year.

Worryingly, our report found that schools are reining in their expenditure more than they had anticipated earlier in the year.

Where secondary school headteachers had predicted a decrease of 3.8 per cent when last surveyed in April 2017, this has now declined by an additional percentage point.

In cash terms, this means that the average secondary school will be spending £7,840 less on educational resources this year than they did in the previous year.

This amounts to a decline of more than £17,000 over the past two years alone.

A total of 35 per cent of secondary school leaders are now saying they will lower their expenditure on ICT, compared to just 23 per cent at the start of this year.

On other education resources, 50 per cent of secondary school leaders say they will be decreasing their expenditure. Only 18 per cent anticipate an increase.

The overall forecast for resources expenditure across UK secondary schools is one of a 10 per cent market reduction over the past two years. Even during the great recession, secondary schools were spending more on educational resources.

There is, rightly, mounting pressure on the government to increase the overall education budget – although no additional funding was forthcoming in the recent Autumn Budget.

However, while the focus is – understandably – on increasing staff salaries and removing the cap on public sector pay, it is paramount that the funding of resources is not overlooked.

Schools are now starting to lack even essential resources. While there are doubtless efficiencies to be made, the impact of cutting back on resources upon a child’s education should not be underestimated.

There is a powerful evidence-base to show that resources matter – from the size of the furniture, to the quality of the science equipment.

We are hearing accounts from across the school sector of corners being cut. These range from YouTube clips being shown in place of practical science experiments, to parents being asked to pay for textbooks.

Science resources are being hit particularly hard, as is clear from the recent Gatsby Foundation report Good Practical Science.

The report is informed by an extensive survey of 10 per cent of secondary schools in England about the state of practical science in their schools. It finds that only 42 per cent of schools said that their laboratories have “sufficient equipment to make it possible for teachers to do standard practical activities expected in their specialist subject at that level”.

Elsewhere, we see frequent headlines in the media about parents being asked to pay for educational resources due to budget cuts.

We also hear of teachers paying out of their own pockets to ensure that their pupils get the resources they need to learn. One secondary school teacher told us that: “If I need specialist resources, I have to buy them myself. Money is tight – I find myself getting wound up over children using too much glue, or sharpening pencils too much! Decisions are being made based on financial, not educational value.”

This sentiment is echoed by Michael Forshaw, founder of Innovate My School, which works with schools across the country to showcase the latest educational innovations: “There are so many useful resources now available to teachers, online and offline, that will help make lessons more engaging and creative; resources that will improve efficiencies and save schools money; resources that will plug skill gaps to ensure all pupils are given an equal opportunity to flourish.”

He continued: “It is a travesty that they are unable to make use of the innovation that is out there. We must, therefore, do everything we can to put it in their hands now, before it is too late.”

This is why this year, we at BESA launched our Resource Our Schools campaign, working with subject associations and representative bodies, such as the National Association of Head Teachers, Naace and the Association for Science Education.

The campaign is dedicated to ensuring that every school has access to the resources they need to deliver the education that our children deserve. There is a bitter irony in the fact that British resources are renowned as being the gold-standard across the globe, but increasingly schools outside of the UK are better able to afford them than in the country where they originated.

Hundreds of organisations, teachers, parents and suppliers have already signed the Resource Our Schools statement on the campaign website. Every signature counts in helping to ensure that school resources don’t slip off the government radar. If you haven’t already, please do consider signing it.

  • Patrick Hayes is director of British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA). BESA will be operating the Bett Show 2018 Information Point on stand B120.

Further information

The Resource Our Schools campaign:

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