I offer my support to the hundreds of local councillors who have written to the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, demanding that more money be made available for schools.
The Department for Education insists that school funding in England is at its highest ever level, but the Institute for Fiscal Studies reported last year that real term funding in 2017/18 was 8% lower than 2009/10. The Government saying that it is increasing funding is a disingenuous statement when that increase cannot keep up with inflation, population growth and other rising costs associated with service delivery.
Make no mistake, our state schools are experiencing a profound funding crisis. In 2018, a third of council-run schools were in financial deficit, as were 80% of academies. Schools around the country are narrowing their curriculum and cutting vital lessons to save money. Some schools are closing early to cut costs, and some parents are being asked to contribute essentials to the running of the school, such as toilet paper.
This financial crisis for schools contributes to increasingly troubling staff retention rates. A study from the UCL Institute of Education found that roughly half of all newly-qualified teachers left their career within 10 years. In 2017, over 30% of newly qualified teachers left their jobs within 5 years of entering the profession. This creates a vicious circle for the education sector. Under-staffed and under-funded schools are asking their teachers to commit far more of their time, teach larger class-sizes and receive less support, which causes them to become disaffected and overworked, making them more likely to leave the sector. With their departure, their replacements suffer in exactly the same circumstances. Furthermore, for teachers leaving within the school year, or at an inconvenient time, the schools have to spend more money on short-notice relief and substitute teachers. This paints a bleak picture for the education sector, and it ultimately comes down to state schools simply not having the means to do their job.
As we see with local authorities and the NHS, vital services within the public sector are stressed and stretched far beyond capacity, and this Conservative Government expects us to believe that they are committing unprecedented levels of funding and doing their best for schools. When £1 billion can be found to buy the loyalty of the DUP and corporate tax cuts are going left, right and centre for the rich, it’s difficult to believe that the Government has spent its money in the interest of the many, rather than the select few who prop them up.