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School funding - what the cuts really mean

November 4, 2022, 14:48 GMT+1
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  • Education is the key to everything good in a country's future, but here it’s like an optional add-on, says the Secret Headteacher
School funding - what the cuts really mean

It seems to have been going round and round for months. An endless spiral of energy caps, inflation, price rises, huge direct debits, real terms pay cuts, potential strikes, actual strikes, and disgruntled members of most walks of life - but all with one thing in common: worrying about how they are going to survive the winter months and beyond with the situation as it is.

Few are immune. And working in schools, even if we might be immune personally, there is little chance we will remain impervious professionally. It comes down to the fact that schools lack the resources to do their core job. They didn’t have them before the latest round of pay rises, and they certainly won’t have them once energy increases get factored into budgets that were set before the latest round of potential increases.

The personal worry of how life might be affected by what is coming over the next few months will only be compounded by professional worries as well. It will cause a lot of stress, anguish and anxiety for school leaders and business managers wondering how they will make ends meet.

A recent poll on Twitter showed 80% of schools forecasting a deficit this year. This is unsustainable. School leaders will be forced to make the most difficult of choices about what they can and can’t provide. These may have to be decisions that no head wants to make. On what aspects of provision for our children will we have to compromise? In which areas will we have to dilute our offering in order to make ends meet? This is where we will find the real cost. Children that need it won’t get the support they deserve.

Extracurricular activities may have to be cut as they require extra staffing or provision. Trips may have to be funded by schools as parents can’t afford them. Neither can the schools - so what is the obvious solution?

I know for a fact that leaders, teachers, and support staff will bend over backwards to make things happen for the children. They always do and, more often than not, manage to work magic on an absolute shoestring. But even that shoestring is close to snapping under the weight of everything that is currently placed on it, and when that happens, education in this country will be even further down the road that it is currently headed - that of compromise and cuts.

This is before we get to how staff might seek jobs elsewhere that are better paid or be forced to work second jobs. The cost of this could be massive. People leaving the profession, working to burn-out, and not knowing where to turn - all of this has a detrimental effect on those who we are here to help the most: the children in our care.

How can staff give their best if they are constantly worried about how they will make ends meet? The long-term effects of a damaged and struggling education system are enormous and it’s something about which we cannot afford to be shortsighted. Education has to be a long-term investment if we want to see genuine returns.

So, what is the solution to all of this? In my view, it’s valuing education, which is the key to everything good in any country’s future. But here it is funded like an optional add-on; or it certainly feels like it. If we want world-class education provision, it needs to be given world-class funding to allow the world-class people we have working in schools to do what they do best - make a difference in millions of lives every single day.

We now have a fresh opportunity. A new Prime Minister and Secretary of State who can start to swim against the tide of the last 12 years. Perhaps things might just change - because we need it.

Until we get that, we will be left with schools doing what they do now - shifting, moving, juggling, pulling out every stop to help as many children as they possibly can.

Schools produce astonishing works of magic with the resources they have every single day. It’s a good job you’re so brilliant at it. Imagine what the real cost would be if you weren’t.

The author is a headteacher in England and Tweets at @secretHT1. Read more of their thoughts at the Secret Headteacher website.