UK: School cuts website shows parents the impact of Tory policy on their children
UK/November 07, 2022/Toby Helm/Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
Teaching unions revamp site with official data on every school in England and Wales to show education funding
Tens of millions of parents will, from April next year, be able to see the precise level of budget cuts hitting the state schools their children attend, thanks to an information campaign by teaching unions.
The planned cuts to be imposed on every school in England and Wales – with figures detailing what this amounts to per pupil – will be available on a revamped version of the school cuts website, run by the unions and to be unveiled this week.
At present the site gives only retrospective data, for the financial year 2021-22. But in the hope of getting parents to pressurise their MPs on the issue before the next general election, the National Education Union (NEU), with support from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), will launch a new site showing data for the year ahead.
The unions will also put out social media posts showing the level of cuts forecast to hit schools in the constituencies represented by prime minister Rishi Sunak, chancellor Jeremy Hunt and education secretary Gillian Keegan.
In Sunak’s Richmond constituency, in North Yorkshire, unions say four schools will lose more than £100,000 in the year from April 2023, with 40 seeing reductions of more than £100 per pupil. About 75% of schools in the constituency face some cuts.
The unions say the calculations are based on official but not easily available government data on schools funding from the last comprehensive spending review. They have also factored in inflation predictions from the Bank of England and conservative estimates of increases in schools’ costs, such as a 2% rise in teachers’ pay and higher energy bills.
The unions say the data has been independently verified by leading economists, who conclude it is reliable. If funding changes that affect school budgets are made in Hunt’s financial statement on 17 November, the data will be immediately adjusted.
The unions’ latest initiative comes after Hunt made it clear that all departments, including education, would be expected to make cuts as part of the government’s debt reduction plan.
On Saturday Sunak told the Times that he had to be honest with people about the economic challenges ahead, particularly the need to bring down borrowing and inflation. He said: “It’s not leadership to pretend there is some easy, short-term fix … I’d rather be honest with people about what it’s going to take to get us to the place we need to get to.”
As recently reported by the Observer, nine out of 10 schools in England expect to have run out of money by the next school year as the enormous burden of increased energy and salary bills takes its toll.
The NAHT says 50% of heads believe their school will be in deficit this year, with almost all expecting to be in the red by next September, when their reserves run out.
Many headteachers working in sub-standard and even dangerous school buildings also fear that promises of funding for rebuilding and renovation could fall victim to cuts in the allocation for school capital projects.
A Department for Education report on the state of schools and their buildings has been delayed. Emails leaked to the Observer earlier this year showed that the dangerous state of many schools was one of the biggest concerns inside the department – and that officials were pressing for more Treasury money to fund rebuilds.
DfE staff called for the Treasury to urgently make extra billions available to increase the number of school rebuilding projects from 50 a year to more than 300.
James Bowen, head of policy at the NAHT, said: “The government needs to accelerate the school rebuilding programme. On current plans to rebuild 50 schools a year, it will take over 440 years to repair and replace all schools. This is woefully inadequate.
“There are now parts of the school estate that are in a dangerous state of repair. The Department for Education assessed the condition of nearly all schools in England between 2017 and 2019. It is only right that there is now full disclosure of what was discovered. Parents and school staff deserve to know the risk.”
The DfE said it would be issuing a report on the state of school buildings by the end of the year. It added: “Since 2015, we have allocated over £13bn to improve the condition of school buildings and facilities, including £1.8bn this financial year.”
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