Schools & Academies Show 2019: We Need to Talk About Funding 2
This is Part 2 of our write-up on the We Really Need to Talk About Funding talk, you can find Part 1 here. The following is an abridged account of the questions asked and the answers given, although names have been omitted for privacy sake.
Q1: Our school is in lock-down right now because of knife crime, I have been told that I need to be stopping my Year 10s from getting into knife crime but because of budget staff I have had to fire the auxiliary staff who do just that. How am I meant to achieve this?
A1: We have been plagued by horrific instances of knife crime in this country and laying the problem at the feet of schools is not the answer, this is clearly part of a much wider issue.
Q2: At my special school, we need to meet the high level of needs our students have however we are constantly being forced to make increasingly hard spending decisions. We have been running at a significant deficit but we need to ensure that their needs are met, how do you suggest we do that?
A2: Special needs funding is always the most pressurized part of the budget, with increased numbers of high needs children being moved into the normal school system which proves to be a much more expensive and difficult process. They are looking at ways of building up evidence to demonstrate the true scale of the problem. There is some skepticism among education providers about whether or not money in these areas is being spent effectively, but there is acknowledgement that there isn’t enough money in the first place.
Q3: At my MAT, the teacher pension increases come into force in September however we haven’t seen the details of the spending review, we’ve been told that our budgets will be protected from the pension increase, is this going to continue?
A3: It has been agreement that funding should increase for individual schools to pay the costs that they face. Wider political events are holding decision making up and we don’t know the actual outcome of the spending review yet. there is frustration at every level that politics are holding everything up.
Q4: After a letter from 1000 schools, including the 42 worst funded schools in the UK and a march on Downing Street by teachers, will you now admit that the funding formula has failed?
A4: The funding formula wasn’t meant to be finished by now, it is a work in progress. The biggest issue with it is the broader political impasse. Local politics isn’t treating the money properly and while that is an issue, school standards are at their highest, there is still an awful lot of good going on.
Q5: Schools are being asked to deliver on all of the problems in society but they don’t have the money to do that. There needs to be more engagement from parents but parents accept the line from the government that more money is being delivered, what can we do to lobby government and engage with parents more effectively?
We need to re-imagine what schools are for in order to gauge what funding needs to be made available.
Q6: Should schools spend their reserves as they have them or should they hold onto more?
What kind of education do we want and who decides, we don’t know what we want schools to do, what government expects of them and what they need funding for. There needs to be a conversation on what reserves are for, that will determine what the minimum is and what the capital can do.
If you want to read part 1 of this talk, you can do so here.