Head teacher urges parents to join campaign on school funding

May 08 2017

PARENTS in the Bristol area are rising up in protest against school funding cuts.

PARENTS in  the Bristol area are rising up in protest against school funding cuts.

A march is planned for May 20 to highlight the issue, which is likely to be a major topic in the general election campaign.

More than 300 people attended a Fair Funding for all Schools at the Holiday Inn in Hambrook last month organised by parents from South Gloucestershire.

A meeting for Bristol campaigners  will take place on May 11 at The Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road.

Debbie Coker, principal of Fishponds Church of England Academy, has urged parents to back the protests.

She said the school was facing a budget cut of about £100,000 because of the way the Government funds schools, reductions to local authority funding of children with special needs and increases in pension and national insurance contributions.

In a letter to parents, she promised to keep them informed about how the school would manage the budget pressures.

“ There are many campaigns going on around the local area … and I would ask that you show your support to these campaigns as our children cannot be educated effectively without the appropriate funding,” she wrote.

A website set up by teaching unions  and based on Department for Education data  - schoolcuts.org.uk -   gives figures for all schools in England and the cuts they can expect in the next three years. 

Bristol Metropolitan Academy, Bristol Brunel Academy and May Park are set to face the biggest reductions.

Huw Williams, who  is leading the Fair Funding for all Schools campaign in Bristol, 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. The meeting on May 11 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.”

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. (Publication of a  consultation on this has been delayed until after the election.)

Increased 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.

Many 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.