School funding crisis: Read this account from one Gloucestershire education expert
More than 50 parents, teachers and governors have contacted me after I asked them to share their experiences of poor funding in Gloucestershire schools. Their reports paint a bleak picture, and I am grateful to them for contacting me ahead of my parliamentary debate on School Funding in Gloucestershire on Wednesday.
Sarah Murphy of the Gloucestershire National Education Union has kindly agreed to let me share her submission about what she has witnessed as she works in schools in Gloucestershire:
As District Secretary of the Gloucestershire National Education Union and a member of your constituency, I would like to draw to your attention the impact of the real-terms funding cut to schools in Gloucestershire.
As a caseworker for the NEU I see the impact of these funding cuts on all members of a school community.
Just in the last fortnight I have supported an assistant headteacher whose role has been affected by a restructure, I have supported teachers facing multiple redundancies in a successful grammar school, the redundancies sited as necessary due to hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding shortfall.
I have supported two teachers who have been off work due to anxiety and stress caused by work. Two teachers who have been assaulted at work by students and are suffering from PTSD. One teacher who witnessed an attempted suicide. Three teachers who, despite having taught for decades, are now facing ‘capability’ procedures. Surely these teachers have not suddenly become incapable? No, I suspect that, since being more experienced, they are more expensive than their newly qualified counterparts and so this could be a cost-cutting exercise for their headteachers.
The unequivocal impact of funding cuts is: increasing class sizes, a reduction in teaching-assistant support, a narrowing of the curriculum at secondary schools, and less support for SEND students. These collectively, alongside high-stakes testing, league tables and the threat of forced academisation, lead to substantial, unnecessary and unacceptable levels of stress on headteachers, classroom teachers and support staff.
The government has failed to reach its teachers’ recruitment targets despite expensive advertising campaigns. One in three teachers leaves the profession within five years. Less than half of secondary teachers have more than ten years’ experience. Student numbers are increasing by tens of thousands each year. The current situation is unsustainable.
Cuts to Local Authority budgets have resulted in reductions in the support available to schools in the form of such agencies as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and teacher advisory services.
Increasing levels of poor pupil behaviour and students with mental-health issues, coupled with reducing funding for SEND students, are resulting in insufficient places at Alternative Provision Schools. This leads to greater numbers of students with challenging behaviours remaining in mainstream schools or being home educated.
The independent School Teacher Review Body recommended in July last year a 3.5% pay rise to all teachers. Despite this, the Department for Education awarded it only to main-scale teachers. The reality is, however, that even this is not being awarded to significant numbers of teachers, their headteachers stating that if they award the pay rise there will have to be redundancies.
If money can be found to charter ferries in the event of a no-deal Brexit, if money can be pledged to build a high-speed railway, surely money can be found to fund our schools properly.
We are no longer at the ‘reduce your photocopying’ stage, the ‘provide your own pens and pencils’ stage in Gloucestershire, we are at the ‘don’t expect a TA but do expect a class size of 35 and certainly don’t expect a pay rise’ stage.
We are rapidly heading to a situation in which we will not have an education system fit to educate our young people for the Brexit reality. I am not scaremongering, I work within the system every single day.
Please consider your priorities carefully. The NHS and our state education system should and must be beacons that the UK can be proud of.
District Secretary, Gloucestershire National Education Union
I’ve requested a Parliamentary debate on the state of school funding in Gloucestershire, which receives poorer funding than many other areas.
The debate is in Westminster Hall on Wednesday 30 January.
Ahead of that debate, I’d like to know how school funding issues in Gloucestershire have affected you and your children. Please fill in this form to share your experience.
Please note names and other details will remain confidential, although I may use some of your experiences to inform my speech and the debate in the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. My team will contact you in advance if this is the case.
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