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“The powers that be need to listen”

August 6, 2019, 13:04 GMT+1
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  • If schools will be required to impose an unfunded comprehensive pay increase, expect the consequences to be serious, warns Kate Owbridge...
“The powers that be need to listen”

“I was much further out than you thought
and not waving but drowning.”
– Stevie Smith, ‘Not Waving but Drowning’

A 2.75% pay increase? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Last year the pay increase varied according to different pay scales (main, upper, leadership) and had the effect of narrowing the gap between each one. Where will be the financial incentive for talented individuals within the profession to ‘climb the ladder’ if that keeps happening?

On hearing news of incoming salary increases, my first reaction always used to be one of “Yay – how much will I get?” But in recent years, it’s more often been, “Will it be funded?” Because if it’s not, we at Ashdown Primary and many other schools across the country will be well and truly stuffed.

The wrong way round

My school is two form entry, situated on a split site. Around 10% of our pupils qualify for Pupil Premium, which means we won’t match any of the criteria needed to access additional grant funding. What’s more, we currently have an approximate 60/40 split between upper pay scale and main pay scale teachers, which – financially, at least – is the wrong way round. Of course, that proportion of MPS employees continues to steadily grow year on year, and we’re not going to be shedding any UPS teachers to compensate.

My teachers are great. They all deserve what they’re paid, or more. My TAs are also great, but we’re struggling as it is to afford the TA hours. We presently have no class TAs with us during the afternoons, only one per year group for Y3 to Y6 and one per class for Y1 and Y2. Our only cohort group to have full-time TA support is EYFS, because of the statutory supervision requirements.

Otherwise, we’ve had to repeatedly cut TA intervention time through people leaving and not replacing them once they’re gone. It’s still the case that every time someone leaves, we’ll look carefully at whether we should replace them or not. We’ve had no significant building spend for the last four years. We use old computers, only one class has access to a set of tablets, and only half of our teachers have been assigned their own laptops.

We deserve more

Our history budget for this year is £120 – for approximately 400 children. Our budget for consumables across all year groups is £12k. We let out both of our sites and our swimming pool as often as we can. We pack our KS2 classes with as many children as apply to be on roll.

The simple truth is that if this pay award – and any others in future – aren’t funded, then we’ll be making intervention TAs redundant, closely followed by class TAs, to free up the money we need to meet the increases. We’ll also be cutting staff CPD.

Teachers won’t want to work in a school where CPD isn’t forthcoming; where they’ll be expected to do everything themselves, and where the equipment they use is old and knackered. Those existing teachers who decide to stay, despite the difficulties, will soon start to feel the same way.

They deserve more. Our community deserves more. Our children deserve more. The powers that be need to listen, believe us and change course. Because this funding squeeze has been going on too long and it needs to stop.

Kate Owbridge is executive headteacher at Ashdown Primary School, Crowborough