Funding crisis putting children’s future ‘at risk’

Worth Less? campaign
Worth Less? campaign

The Department for Education (DfE) has been warned children’s futures are “at risk” if it doesn’t heed warnings about school funding.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee published its latest report on March 29 in which it said the government was deluded about schools’ ability to make further cuts to their budgets.

Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School

Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School

Committee chairman Meg Hillier MP, said: “Pupils’ futures are at risk if the Department for Education fails to act on the warnings in our report.”

The committee is responsible for overseeing government spending while ensuring it is both effective and honest. Its report found the DfE “does not seem to understand the pressures that schools are already under”.

With schools expected to make £3bn of “efficiency savings” by 2019/20, the committee warned the DfE did not have any plans in place to monitor the consequences of those cuts on education standards.

It concluded: “The actions schools take are likely to increase teachers’ workload, with implications for recruitment and retention, and put at risk the quality of education.”

Nick Taunt, head of Bishop Luffa school

Nick Taunt, head of Bishop Luffa school

The findings came as no surprise to headteachers, who have been running their Worth Less? campaign for fairer funding for two years.

Nick Taunt, of Bishop Luffa school, said: “The report confirms what heads have been saying with increasing urgency. We have been making significant cuts for years. There is simply no more give. It is time for the government to act now.”

Jules White, of Tanbridge House School, said of the committee: “It is no surprise that they draw the same conclusions to those being made by committed and dedicated schools leaders who have been warning of the serious issues facing schools for some time.

“Bluntly, we are in the midst of a crisis whereby we don’t have the two bare essentials – enough money and enough teachers – to run our schools in the ways that children and families deserve.

Mark Anstiss, head of Felpham Community College

Mark Anstiss, head of Felpham Community College

“It is staggering that the DfE and government are still talking about record funding levels and improving standards when every school leader and independent specialist are talking of crisis.

“We need the DfE to show the courage and leadership to address this head on.

“Funding must be maintained and then limited resources must not be wasted. Every parent wants a great teacher in front of their child so we must invest in education and the future.”

Mark Anstiss, of Felpham Community College, said he found it “vaguely insulting” to be repeatedly told to save money when he had been operating on a shoe-string budget for years.

He added: “At some point, you can’t get any more ‘efficient’ without affecting provision and outcomes.

“If more money is not forthcoming for West Sussex schools then standards will suffer. You may be able to make efficiency savings in large well-funded London schools, but not in those schools who have been at the bottom for years.

“West Sussex needs a bigger slice of the education cake, but the whole cake needs to be bigger. If the government believes you can remove £3bn from education funding and still maintain or raise standard then, to quote from the report, it’s being delusional. If you really value the future education of all our children you need to invest in them.”

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