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Chronic government short-sightedness is wreaking havoc in our schools

Tory funding cuts have removed all support, creativity and joy out of the school experience, says KEVIN COURTNEY

SCHOOL funding was one of the most important issues in the last general election and the School Cuts campaign led by the National Education Union did swing votes. 

If there is one thing that should have been learnt from this by the current government, it is that the underfunding of our schools is not acceptable. 

Since 2015, £2.8 billion has been cut from school budgets. Head teachers have clearly had to put severe measures in place to manage this shortfall. 

To balance the books, among many other things, teachers and school staff are being cut or not replaced if they leave, building repairs are being put on hold, subjects are being dropped from the curriculum — in particular music, dance, drama and art — class sizes have been increased and it’s becoming increasingly common for schools to ask parents for financial help. 

These are decisions that no-one going into education ever thought they would have to make.

Teachers are also deeply frustrated that meeting the needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) is getting harder. 

This again is due to the funding cuts, the narrower range of curriculum subjects and the way in which schools are competitively ranked. 

The government’s own figures show that over 4,000 children with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or a Statement have no educational provision and are therefore not in school at all. This figure has increased by more than five times over the last five years.  

Changes to the system of funding allocation for high needs/Send pupils have been done without conducting a proper assessment of the funding needed to provide them with high-quality learning. 

This has created an immediate crisis in Send funding, and turmoil in local authorities. Robbing Peter to pay Paul will only work once, before budgets for Send pupils reach breaking point.  

Such chronic short-sightedness is wreaking havoc in our schools. It is unbelievable that, in a modern, wealthy country, this bargain basement version of education that removes all support, creativity and joy out of the school experience is the government’s vision for state education. 

It is absolutely incumbent upon government that schools receive the funding they need. Parents will not stand for a situation whereby their children’s education is diminished due to a severe shortfall in funding. 

It is pointless pretending that cuts to funding are not having an impact on our schools and colleges when the evidence is there for all to see. 

The government should pay heed to the fact that education funding played such a big part in the general election

Kevin Courtney is joint general secretary of the National Education Union.

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