As Sam Freedman, former Policy Advisor to Michael Grove, recently wrote we are faced with three choices in the upcoming elections for education funding. The Conservatives have said they will protect funding in “cash terms” per pupil – i.e. the amount of cash received for each pupil will stay the same over the Parliament and will not increase in-line with inflation. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they will protect the current education budget in “real terms” – so in line with inflation.
Put simply if inflation remains low the Conservatives plans will be better, if it is higher, then the Labour and Liberal Democrat plans will be. However, it will mean a cut in per pupil funding of around 8%. At the same time, in 2016/17, schools will be hit with a £1bn bill for additional pension and national insurance contributions – an additional effective cut of 2.5%. In monetary terms a reduction of funding of half a million pounds for an average sized secondary school, more if you have a Sixth Form.
What this means for schools in practice will depend on two things: where these cuts will fall and their cost pressures. For schools, where 80% of spending goes on staffing, we are faced with stark decisions to make over the next year. Reduce staffing, teachers and/or support staff, increases class sizes and/or reduce subject choices, the latter always being preferable to larger classes. But, costs will have to be reduced wherever we can and we also have new GCSEs and new A’levels to fund, with no additional money for equipment, text books or resources.
At the moment there are significant and historic differences between funding in different parts of the country. Inner London for instance is overfunded, and many schools have significant surpluses, whereas other parts of the country, often more rural have much tighter margins.
What this means for parents in our area is that the schools will need an increase in fund-raising and support to help over this next challenging period. So to steal one famous US President quote:
“My fellow parents, ask not what your children’s school can do for you, ask what you can do for their school.”