As Chair of Governors of a small one-form entry primary school, I have just come back from a Finance & Premises sub-committee meeting, tearing my hair out and wondering how on earth I can make a difference to the appalling lack of funding for schools this government is providing.
2 years ago, as a new governor, with a brand new Headteacher and Deputy Headteacher, I oversaw a complete staffing restructure – actually make that 3 staffing restructures – in one academic year. We had a forecast of being £750,000 in deficit within a 3-year period. The reason being? A lot of children with SEND, equating to the need for more support staff, a lot of teaching staff that had been at the school for many years, all at the top of their pay scale and ever growing pension costs. But most of all, while salaries, pensions and other costs increased, funding for schools remained static for very many years. Indeed, two years ago, our staffing costs made up 96% of our total income. The benchmark figure for schools is set at around 85%.
We took action. We made many staff redundant. We cut hours. We restructured the timetable for teaching. SEND children were not going to get the interventions that they needed but we, as a school, were not receiving funding for. EHCP funding is a whole other issue. We rescued our financial forecast, but there was blood, sweat and many tears along the way.
Today, right now, we have a balanced budget. But lo and behold, the National Joint Council has just announced a 2% pay award for all teaching assistants which in turn increases the “on-costs”. Also, we are to expect a compulsory 2% pay award increase for teachers from September. Again, the increase in “on-costs” and an increase in pension costs all around.
Of course our educators absolutely deserve this… and more in fact. But where is the money coming from to pay for it?
2 years on, looking at our 3 year forecast, we see that our staffing costs will be at 90% of income for the next year and 96% in three years time. We are straight back where we started 2 years ago with NO further increase in funding and worse – it is reducing, due to the new “Fairer Funding Formula”. Fair?
We have cut costs wherever we possibly can. Parents are providing toys and equipment for children to play with at break times. We are now going to ask parents to buy school stationery for us via an Amazon Wishlist.
I do not know how our school can survive right now. In 3 years’ time, we’ll have another whopping deficit. And apparently, we’re in a pretty good situation compared to other schools, due to the action we took previously.
The education system in the UK used to be acclaimed. If action isn’t taken soon, I fear it will be infamous.
Surely we now all have to stand up, be counted and campaign for more educational funding?
I’m in. Are you?
This story is from Brent.