Since 2015, £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets according to a National Education Union sponsored campaign. All Hallows Catholic College in Macclesfield will have seen a loss of over £278,492 between 2015 and 2020, as well as a per-pupil loss of £275. In East Cheshire alone, there will be a total loss of £10.9 million in real terms for our schools. But according to Theresa May, there is ‘record levels of spending’ in our education system.
In principle, this is correct. Schools get money based on how many pupils they have and as such, with a higher number of pupils than ever, schools supposedly get more money. However, to peddle this line would be to imply that our schools are in a state of prosperity. The reality of the situation is however, very different.
Regardless of whether you’re on the Left or the Right we all have a duty to our youth. Young people are the future. So for schools to have to write emails and letters to parents saying that they can’t afford pens or toilet paper, you should probably realise there’s serious issues. Ministers are, to be frank, in complete denial. While they continue the typical Tory tradition of spouting the party line at every opportunity, they are in turn legitimising the breakdown of our schooling system. Education secretary Damian Hinds was this week criticised by Headteachers for refusing to meet with them to discuss the state of the system due to Tory austerity. If the Secretary of State for Education is too scared to meet people in the actual system, then it’s clear that even the government know that they’ve failed our children.
An open letter by Head Teachers claimed that since 2010, their budgets had seen an 8% reduction in real terms. Schools are making drastic cutbacks, with some schools closing early or even axing under-subscribed subjects. Class sizes have reached unacceptable levels as a direct result of funding cuts. For example, Kevin Courtney, the joint General Secretary of the NEU, has taught a maths class of 37 pupils. How can we expect our pupils to learn in these conditions? Pupils need individual support, but in classes of this size, they won’t get it.
And as such, this lack of individualised support can contribute to stress and anxiety amongst children who struggle academically as they will feel as though they can’t succeed without support. Pastoral Care has also seen reductions, no longer being seen as an essential part of schooling. This is, in turn, leading to more pressure on teachers and year-learning leaders to make up for the lack of pastoral leaders by focusing on pupil’s emotional state as well as academic state.
We’ve effectively become a one-issue nation thanks to the Tory Government’s horrendous handling of Brexit. This has allowed the Conservatives to effectively brush their callous cuts to education under the carpet. Sadly, they’re getting away with it too often.
We are currently in the midst of another national crisis in the form of Knife Crime. The Tories have cut 21,000 police officers and this has, of course, led to a spike in knife crime amongst youths. But for me, cuts to education and youth services have played a key role in this rise in violent knife crime as well. Children who aren’t so academically successful are being forced out of mainstream education in order to raise a school’s achievement. It is allegedly these children that are most likely to carry a knife for example. Schools should not only be used to educate children academically, but also protect and safeguard them, while also teaching them valuable morals and values. While schools can’t stop knife crime among youths, they can play a key part in preventing some cases.
But while they are underfunded, schools cannot afford this. In fact, many of them are resorting to desperate measures to raise money. Some are holding fundraising days while others are setting up crowd-funding pages online. One of the first duties of the government is to adequately fund our institutions. If schools are resorting to practically begging parents to make up the gap between their budget and their funding cuts, then it’s clear that the government is failing in its duty.
Teachers are leaving the system in their droves now, and that’s not because they don’t care or because they’re bad at their jobs. It’s because they simply cannot cope with the stress of an underfunded system coupled with increasing workloads. It’s not just children that the government are failing, it’s the teachers as well. To put it simply, it is not good enough.
Education is so important for shaping the country we want. We are meant to have one of the best systems in the world, but it’s clear now that it’s spiralled out of control. We need to fix it as a matter of priority. With ministers being in denial, it’s become blindingly obvious that the people who know the most about the system are those who are actually in it. We need to listen to teachers and headteachers now more than ever. While throwing more money at the problem isn’t always the solution, it would certainly be a good start…