On Tuesday evening 2nd October Wera Hobhouse MP joined school leaders, teachers and parents to discuss the devastating impact that national cuts to school funding are having on schools in Bath.
The meeting held at Ralph Allen School drew more than 50 concerned parents of children from across the city.
Schools in Bath and North West Somerset are being hit hard by government underfunding. 53 of the 70 schools in the region face cuts, with a £1.6million total loss by 2020 – that’s £69 per pupil. Class sizes have already increased. The Institute for Fiscal Studies reports that total school funding per pupil in England has fallen by around 8% in real terms between 2009-10 and 2017-18.
In addition to reports from representatives of national teachers’ bodies, the meeting heard compelling and distressing evidence from local education leaders Paula Black, a primary SEMH teacher and Headteachers Sue East (St Andrews C of E Primary School), George Samios (Twerton Infant School and Nursery) and Dave Goucher (Oldfield Park Junior School).
Wera Hobhouse MP said: “Our Headteachers are having to make very difficult decisions about how best to allocate their shrinking budgets. This is having a disastrous impact on our children’s futures, particularly those who are most vulnerable. We cannot allow this to continue. I am a former secondary school teacher myself and education is very close to my heart.”
“I have visited many Bath schools and met with Headteachers, staff, parents and governors. Our schools are delivering the very best they can for our pupils. But how much longer can they continue to do so in the face of ongoing, disastrous budget cuts by our government? Our schools are at breaking point. And who is bearing the brunt? Our children. We need to call out this government’s cruelty,” Wera Hobhouse said.
“The government’s so-called fair-funding formula eradicates the extra funds that used to go to schools whose catchment areas had high levels of deprivation. Schools who need the most support for their children are losing the most money. But the government has found some extra money - £50 million pounds - for grammar schools. It demonstrates clearly the government’s commitment to inequality.”
Andrew Baisley of the National Education Union told the meeting: “The state of crisis is undeniable. While the government is spending more on schools, rapidly rising costs and increasing pupil numbers are wiping this out. Spending per pupil is £389 less than it was three years ago. It would take £2.7bn a year to plug the funding gap. Sixth Form funding has been slashed by 20% since 2010.”
Special needs education is in crisis as well. Pupil numbers increased by 33% from 2015 to 2018 but funding has increased by only 14% and 8% in real terms. Of the pupils that Paula Black teaches, she said: “Education cuts are the final nail in the coffin of their childhoods.” There has been a 49% reduction in council grants for special needs education. She has seen a £380k cut in funding to her school.
George Samios noted the worrying increase in permanent exclusions. “The system is fragmented. It feels like the safety net for the most vulnerable children is full of holes.”
On Friday 28th September, 2,000 Headteachers and school leaders from all over the country, including two of the speakers at the meeting, marched on Downing Street to protest the damaging effects that government cuts are having on education.
Kevin Burnett, Branch Secretary for the NAHT in B&NES, said: “Colleagues are in despair and utter frustration at picking up all the pieces in a broken education system. The indiscriminate 'slash & burn' cuts which the current government have continued have wiped out the integrated approach to education, health and social care, which is key to the most vulnerable children and young people achieving their best. Parents must know that these shameful cuts are a political choice.”