Thursday, 16 March 2017

Government Spin Won’t Fund Our Schools


OCOS activist Kiri Tunks writes on the campaign for fair funding for our schools:


Fair Funding meeting in Lambeth, 15 March, with 350 parents present...


The government claims that school funding is protected; that the funding per child is the same; that they are equalising funding inequities across the UK.
But this simply isn’t true.
The government has accused teaching unions and parent campaigns of scaremongering but, in fact, we are witnessing the largest real term cuts in education funding since the 1970s.
Using statistics from the DFE, the National Audit Office and the Institute of Fiscal Studies, education trade unions have created the School Cuts website. Just enter the name or postcode of your local school to see the cuts it is likely to face.
This analysis of the impact of the government’s policy on schools around the UK shows the truth is rather different.
Funding per child is not in line with inflation so claiming it is the same is disingenuous because in real terms it simply won’t cover the same costs.
On top of that, the government has put more costs on to school budgets without increasing funding to cover them. These are things like the apprenticeship levy, the annual pay awards to staff and salary increases, increases in the teachers’ pension scheme and National Insurance costs as well as other inflationary pressures on non-staff spending.
None of these things are in the control of the schools and colleges and yet they will have to find a way to pay them with no extra money being given to cover them.

What does this mean?

The only way a school can increase its funding is to increase the number of children on roll without increasing its staff allocation.
So we are already seeing:
  • Increased class sizes
  • Teachers teaching out of their specialism
  • A reduction in Teaching Assistants and administrative support
  • Unqualified/inexperienced/cheap teachers and support staff
  • Staff pay being held down unfairly and their conditions worsening
  • Staff leaving or not being replaced
  • The narrowing of the curriculum as schools focus goes on core/EBacc subjects
  • Cuts to all “non-essential” activities such as trips or libraries or
  • Lack of resources – teachers are reporting a lack of pencils, glue and paper

 
This isn’t scaremongering. This is reporting from the front line.

And it is going to get worse.

 

How bad are the cuts?

 

According to statistics from the National Audit Office, these are the largest real-term funding cuts in education since the 1970s . The current proposals are already a huge change compared with funding under the last coalition government.
 
So we are looking at: 
  • 8% real term reduction in per pupil funding for mainstream schools 2014-2020
  • UK mainstream schools needing to make savings of £3bn
  • 60.6% of academies saying they have overspent their budget 
What about the improved National Funding Formula?


The National Funding Formula is the system by which schools are funded. Previously, this money would go to the Local Authority who would decide how to divide up the cash. Now schools are being funded directly. The government say that the National Funding Formal needed to be revised as funds were not fairly shared out.

 
It is true that the National Funding Formula needs an overhaul. There is a postcode lottery and there are many places around the UK where schools are simply not getting enough money. However, the funding disparities are not as bad as has been claimed with statistics showing that funding has, largely, followed area costs and child poverty levels. Even so, the new NFF means that nearly every area is seeing their funding levelled down rather than levelled up.
 
Put together this means that 98.5% of schools, and 100% of colleges, are set to have per pupil funding cut in real terms.

This means:

  • £339 average loss per primary pupil 
  • £477 average loss per secondary pupil
The cuts are not evenly spread and are regressive with the poorest areas receiving the highest cuts 
  • £447 average loss per primary pupil 
  • £658 average loss per secondary pupil 
In Waltham Forest, cuts will look like this:

  •  £20,185,760 loss in funding by 2019 
  • £538 average loss per pupil
  • 541 fewer teachers
     
The cuts are universal with no school spared. Academies & Free schools are among the worst hit:

  • West London Free Schools                                                          £1,016 per pupil
  • Mossbourne Academy                                                                  £965 per pupil
  • Ark Schools                                                                                         £701 per pupil 
  • Harris                                                                                                    £671 per pupil 
  • Oasis                                                                                                     £609 per pupil

 
And Conservative areas are being hit too. Even the last Chancellor, George Osborne, has met with Education Secretary, Justine Greening, to share his concerns about the cuts. She must be worried herself as schools in her own constituency of Putney are looking at cuts of between £655-£834 per pupil.
 
Even the claim of an “NFF Floor” which was meant to guarantee that no school would lose more than 3% of their funding doesn’t hold water. This ‘guarantee’ is akin to safeguarding, so the floor will stay at same level until the NFF authorises an increase. In effect, this will mean 5,300 schools receiving flat cash funding for years up to 2025 and beyond.
  
 

Spin

 
The Department for Education will tell anyone who listens that the numbers on the School Cuts website are speculation and spin.  They need to be reminded that these figures are the government’s own figures and that these calculations have been endorsed by reliable independent bodies. Additionally, the website is endorsed by the NUT, the ATL, the GMB, Unite, NAHT and Unison.


 
The sources are: 
  • Schools funding allocation for 2015/16 from the Department for Education
  • National Funding Formula consultation data from the Department for Education
  • National Audit Office estimate of school costs 
Furthermore, the calculations have been upheld by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

 

Who else is worried?


 
Parents all over the countries are getting organised under the Fair Funding for All banner. There have been huge public meetings and demonstrations all over the UK such from Haringey to Cheshire, from Lambeth to Shrewsbury.

Schools in previously better-funded areas have been able to make real improvements in the quality of their provision. This has only been achieved because schools have been able to invest in staff, resources, training and infrastructure. Without that money, we will see standards and conditions rolling backwards. 

  
We want all schools to have the necessary money to make these improvements. And a country that is the fifth richest in the world should be able to find the necessary money.
 
You can find out more about the Fair Funding for All campaign here
 

What we need to do


 
There are indications are that government is starting to backtrack on NFF at least but this is not time to take our foot off the pedal. We need to press harder.

Now is the time to increase the pressure


 
1) Use the www.schoolcuts.org.uk website to find out how your local school will be hit.


 
Share the figures on Facebook and Twitter 
Talk to other parents about them 
Sign the petition via the site
Email your MP via the site

 
2) Respond to the government’s consultation before 22nd March.  The government is consulting on its new formula for distributing school funds and it’s vital that lots of us respond.

 
Here’s how to do it:

 
 
3) Write a letter or E-mail to your MP

 
 
 You can find a template letter to use and more information about this on the resources page of the Fair Funding For All Schools website (http://www.fairfundingforallschools.org/resource.html)

 

 4) Start a campaign at your school 
 

 
Parents in the Fair Funding Campaign have been setting themselves up as school reps and working with other parents to raise awareness.

  • Talk to other parents 
  • Talk to the Headteacher 
  • Ask if s/he will write a letter to Justine Greening 
  • Will she let you organize a meeting for parents in the school 
  • Contact us and let us know what is happening and how we can help


5) Join the campaign on Social Media

 
Join the conversation online, help us to reach other parents, and keep up to date with campaign developments by joining our Facebook group  
Some Twitter accounts to follow are
 
@Fairfundschools
@HaringeyParents 
@NoSchoolCuts
@FairFundLambeth 
@FairFundCheshE 
@OurSchoolsLBWF
@RedbridgeRAA

Help raise the profile of the campaign by tweeting about it using  
#schoolsjustwannahavefunds

The voices of parents matter and have real power. Let’s work together to build a campaign to stop these cuts. With our allies, we are a formidable force.
 

 
Many thanks to @FairFundSchools and @FairFundLambeth for their links and resources

 

 



Thursday, 23 February 2017

Waltham Forest schools face a funding meltdown – parents need to organise in response


'Parents will start to see staff being let go this year. They will see bigger class sizes, fewer subjects on offer. They will see the person looking after special education needs go, and all those other additional services disappear'.  Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Headteachers

Parents need to have their voice heard

Welcome to state education in 2017 - a system on the brink as schools face a growing financial crisis which threatens the education of children across England. It seems barely a day goes by lately without new stories of schools taking increasingly drastic action to balance books in the face of the worst funding cuts in a generation.

The Fair Funding for All Schools campaign is bringing together a coalition of parents across all parts of the country to stop the cuts and make the case for investment in our schools, our children and our future.

Parents in Waltham Forest, with their proud legacy of fighting for progressive and inclusive state education, are urged to join the fight.

Why is there a growing funding crisis in our schools?

Despite the Department for Education’s claim that the government has “protected the national schools budget in real terms for the duration of the Parliament”, evidence shows that per pupil funding is set to decrease over this period. The National Audit Office say that the government’s spending plans do not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. With over 450k growth in pupil numbers, funding per pupil is only rising by 1.3 per cent between 2015/16 and 2019/20.

At the same time, schools are facing increasing cost pressures. Pay rises, the introduction of the National Living Wage, higher contributions to National Insurance and the teacher pension scheme, non-pay inflation and the Apprenticeship Levy mean significant additional costs for schools. The NAO says that these cost pressures will force schools to find £3bn in savings  – equating to an 8 per cent real terms reduction per year in pupil funding by 2020. Schools have not experienced this level of reduction in spending power since the mid-1990s.

These figures don’t take into account other cost pressures created by the government, for example by reducing the Education Services Grant which provides funding to local authorities and academies for education services, e.g. school improvement and Special Educational Needs, schools will now need to pay more for those services.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors Association puts it starkly “the organisations who speak for school leaders, including business leaders, are saying the same thing as we are: there simply is no longer enough money in the total pot to sustain adequately all schools in England”

What will be the impact on our schools?

This is going to have a massive impact on your schools. It is clear that every state school in the country is already facing a worsening financial situation. The number of Secondary schools spending more than their income doubled to over 60 per cent in the last five years.

The government expects schools to find two thirds of the £3bn savings through cutting staff costs. The NAO reports that spending on teaching staff fell from 56 per cent to 51 per cent from 2010 to 2015 in maintained schools and from 55 per cent to 52 per cent in academies over the same period. 

The latest schools census shows that last year there were 17,780 state secondary pupils taught in classes with 36 or more pupils – the highest number for a decade. The days of large classes are returning.

Schools facing increasingly difficult financial positions have turned to asking parents for termly cash payments to supplement core school budgets, three schools in my part of London have written to parents asking for termly donations of £30 - £50 per family to supplement school budgets.

Things in Waltham Forest are set to get even worse

For schools in Waltham Forest things are set to get even worse. In April 2018 the government will be introducing a new National Funding Formula (NFF) – the aim of which is to ensure more transparent and equal funding for pupils across all schools in England, addressing historical imbalances.

However, the government will achieve this by redistributing money between schools from a total pot that is shrinking in real terms. And therefore, according to the government’s own figures, 49 per cent of schools in England will lose even more funding with over 2 million children in the worst affected schools.

The impact of the NFF will be felt most obviously in large cities such as London and Manchester – London Councils report that 70 per cent of schools across Greater London will face budget cuts in a climate when school finances are already struggling.

According to analysis by the NUT, the total estimated reduction across all schools in Waltham Forest in real terms by 2020 will be over £20m. That works out at around a £538 reduction for every pupil in the Borough, the equivalent of the salaries of 541 teachers.

But this is not just an issue for London. The Times Education Supplement notes that the majority of those who are set to gain out of the NFF changes will still stand to lose out as increases will insufficient to meet funding shortfalls highlighted by the NAO.

Analysis by teaching unions indicates that around 98 per cent of schools in England will be net losers as a result of the combination of real-terms reductions, additional costs, growing pupil numbers and the impact of the NFF.

And, of course, the NFF will be directing money directly from Whitehall to individual schools – making it much more difficult for allocations to be informed by the kind of local knowledge available to schools forums – and cutting Local Authorities further out of the loop, thereby furnishing the way for further academisation.

Fair Funding for All Schools

Fair Funding for All Schools is a network of parents from all parts of England, that want the government to listen to our concerns about the funding situation facing state schools across the country.

We have two key asks of the government:

  • Increase investment in all schools by protecting per-pupil funding in real terms for the life of this Parliament
  • Provide the additional funding needed to implement the National Funding Formula that increases funding for maintained schools and academies in comparatively poorly funded areas of England without cutting funding per pupil for schools in any other part of the country, so that no school loses out.

Taking our inspiration from the brilliant work of campaign groups like Our Community – Our Schools we have been bringing together parent campaigners new and old, including many existing groups that have been active in the fight against free schools and academies in their area, in a national coalition to make the case for proper investment in state education.

We are staging public meetings at schools, meeting with MPs, representing parent voice in Westminster, holding days of action and generally getting our voice heard. We need the voice of Waltham Forest parents to be heard too.

Our website www.fairfundingforallschools.org has a range of materials that parents can use, you can sign and share our petition, use our guide and model answers to respond to the DFE consultation on the NFF and download model letters to MPs, councillors and the press.

Please join the fight.

 

 

 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

What you need to know about Academy Schools

Under immense public pressure, the government has rowed back from its threat to force all schools to become academies, but it has made it clear that it will still force many other to do so and it still wants all schools to be academies by 2020.  

It can seem like a dry and difficult issue, but it really matters if your school becomes an academy. In this blog we try to explain why.  

There is no evidence that Academy Schools are better schools 

 As various studies have shown and a committee of MPs reviewing the evidence concluded, there is no proof that becoming an academy does anything to improve a school. In fact there is evidence that academies that are part of chains may well deteriorate and perform worse than state schools. ecent studies have indicated that state schools overall are outperforming academies. One things you can definitely say about the drive to force schools to become academies is that it’s not based on evidence. 

Academy schools are more likely to undermine teachers working conditions and try to employ less qualifies staff. 

Teachers matter. You want the best teachers, respected and supported to teach our children. Academies run themselves like businesses, because they have to make a surplus every year and they often have to pay big senior staff salaries. The only way they can do this is by cutting staff costs. This can mean trying to squeeze more teaching out of hard-working staff or cutting access to other conditions of service. In an NUT survey, 43% of teachers at academies reported coming under pressure to move onto worse contracts with rising workloads.  

Academy Schools tend to exclude children they think may damage their results 

All schools are under pressure to deliver results in tests. But community schools have strict rules that say they have to provide education to everyone, equally. Academies have more freedom to change their admissions policies and when combined with the obsession with results, this can have terrible consequences. Studies have found that academies are manipulating their admissions criteria to skew their intake away from children they think will damage their Ofsted results. Academies are also resorting to permanently excluding children they see as a ‘poor quality’. How can you be sure that your child will not fall victim to academies attempting to ‘game’ their admissions or disciplinary policies in pursuit of results? And what would you do if you thought that was happening? Which leads us to… 

Academy schools are less accountable to parents 

If you have a problem with your school, as things stand, you have several ways of getting something done about it. You can raise it with the Local Authority or its elected representatives, who have a responsibility to ensure that the schools are delivering on their core mission for the borough. There are also parent governors who are currently elected to school governing bodies. Academies on the other hand are essentially private companies who have a legal contract with the government in Whitehall to provide education in your area. They have no other responsibility except to remain solvent. Who will you complain to if you have a problem? The government?
  
Academy schools become more like businesses   

Once a school becomes an academy, the people running it may remain the same for a while but the evidence shows that governors and staff can quickly turn over in academy schools. Academies typically look to make their governing bodies smaller and increase the power of ‘super-heads’ so that they become more like the directors of multi-company enterprises. And power is concentrated in fewer hands, the evidence suggests that academies are more vulnerable to financial mismanagement, cronyism and nepotism. Academies have been plagued by a succession of stories based on investigations by the Education Funding Agency, such as the Perry Beeches scandal. A school’s ethos simply won’t survive the changes that academy status brings.  

This is not about education – but turning our schools into sources of profit 

In summary, there’s little evidence that academisation is about standards and while the government has shied away from forcing all schools to become academies, it’s now clear that it was never really about giving parents more choice. In reality, this is part of a longer term project to break up state schools and turn them into private companies. This will make it easier to ultimately turn them into schools that can be run for profit, as in parts of the USA, Sweden and Latin America. It also provides huge opportunities for companies to sell education technology to companies to reduce their ‘costs’ (teachers) and for private equity funds to exploit schools’ land assets. A small number of people stand to make a lot of money out of our schools and our children’s education. That’s what is driving the government’s push to force schools to become academies. It brings their dream a little closer. Unfortunately the record of for-profit schools in the US and Sweden shows that while shareholders turn nice profits, it is children and communities that suffer.   

What can we do? 

The government’s recent actions show that it knows that the tide is turning against academies and free schools and they may be running out of time to force their vision on us. We need to build support for a more positive vision and more positive policies for our schools. That's one reason why  OCOS developed our Charter. But in the meantime, it is possible to stop some schools becoming academies and it’s possible to mitigate some of the worst effects of academisation. But this requires parents and teachers to unite to campaign and show that they are not prepared to sit back and watch their schools being taken away from them.  
  • Talk to other parents – set yourself a target to talk to three other parents and direct them to this blogsite where they can get more information. 
  • Let us know if you’re happy to be a local contact for your school – we need people to tell us what’s happening in our local schools and to give information out to other parents.  
  • Write to your local MP – Use the points in this post to write to your MP setting out your concerns about academisation and asking them to support our local schools. 
  • Write to your local Councillor – we need the Local Authority to hear the same message… 
  • Share this blog widely on social media. 
Help us turn this build an active community that unites parents and teachers alike in campaigning for better schools for all our children.