Parents urged to join fight over school funding cuts

April 28 2017

A meeting to discuss Fair Funding for all Schools Bristol is planned to take place on May 11 at The Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road.

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A meeting to discuss Fair Funding for all Schools Bristol is planned to take place on May 11 at The Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road.

Education campaigner Huw Williams is leading the event, which starts at 6.30pm.

 He said: “The level of cuts being proposed for Bristol schools is going to have a huge impact on our children's education and life chances. This meeting is open to anyone who is concerned about how thousands of pupils and future pupils will be disadvantaged by the new funding formula alongside general cuts to education. The meeting is being held in Southmead but all are welcome. This is part of building a campaign to defend school funding.

“We set up a meeting in Ashley Down, who are facing cuts of around £400,000 and around 70 people turned up - overwhelmingly parents. 

“This is a growing campaign and there will be a march in Bristol too on May 20.”

So what’s it all about? Doesn’t the Government keep telling us that it is spending more on education than ever?

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, agrees but only because there are more schools and more children than before.

Individually, almost all schools are facing a squeeze on their budgets that is going to get worse, even before the introduction of the proposed new National Funding Formula in April 2018. Increased National Insurance and pension contributions, wage rises and the apprenticeship levy mean that in real terms schools are set to have about eight per cent less money, according to the National Audit Office.

These constraints will force them to make tough choices: cutting jobs, reducing the curriculum and stopping trips and after-school clubs.

Head teachers say they are torn between wanting parents to be aware of the financial realities yet trying to reassure them that schools will do their very best for the children with the money they have available.

Redland Green School (RGS) sent out a letter to all parents in March explaining that school funds are at a critical level due to a reduction of funding of £832,000 predicted for 2017-18. 

RGS has increased the number of students in the school and class sizes, but stated that: “This will not be enough to eliminate operational deficits and we are therefore in a position of having to think the unthinkable. We, along with other schools, may need to consider: reducing leadership time and roles; reducing staffing further; increasing class sizes and reducing the number of teachers employed; have some classes taught by non-specialist teachers; charge parents for activities and resources we currently provide for free.”

One-off or regular donations from parents whose children attend the school were some of the funding suggestions, along the lines of £10 per month.

The organisers of Fair Funding for all Schools - South Glos were overwhelmed when 300 people turned up for their meeting at the Holiday Inn on April 6.

And they were encouraged by the message from Kevin Courtney, who told them he believed they could win their battle.

The meeting heard from a number of speakers, including Angela Athay-Hunt, who read out anonymous quotes from school staff including one that said: “This has to be led by parents. ‘They’ won’t listen to teachers.”

Mr Courtney said the power of the campaign was that it could be supported by parents across the country, no matter which political party they voted for or which way they cast their ballot in the referendum.

 No parent had voted for the increased class sizes, reduced opportunities for dance, drama and PE and cuts in individual support that would come about if, as expected, schools across England had £3bn less a year to spend. “If you think education’s expensive, try ignorance,” he said.

A website set up by the NUT and other unions - schoolcuts.org - gives predictions for every school in England and the budget crisis each could face by 2020 based on Department for Education figures.

The National Funding Formula was supposed to iron out regional differences, but campaigners say 98 per cent of children across the land will be worse off. That’s why Fair Funding for all Schools is urging parents, teachers and governors to lobby their local MPs -to persuade them to join the protest. 

Schools funding is expected to be a major issue in the general election campaign.