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THOUSANDS of head teachers gathered in central London today to demand extra funding for Britain’s broken schools.
The campaign group WorthLess? called for more money to tackle issues such as overcrowded classrooms, staff recruitment, problems of low staff retention and poor working conditions, which have been exacerbated by savage Tory cuts.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that per pupil, school budgets have been slashed by 8 per cent in real terms since 2010, while nearly 538,000 more pupils have joined state schools.
National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman called the turnout “fantastic.”
He added: “This is an organic experience of school-leader frustration and anger.”
The head teachers marched from Parliament Square to Downing Street to deliver a letter with their demands to Chancellor Philip Hammond.
In the letter, head teachers requested the government not take them for “fools,” saying that the current education funding situation was “unsustainable.”
Organiser and West Sussex head teacher Jules White said those coming on the rally were “joined by a common desire — and in many cases desperation” to see their schools fairly and adequately funded.
Campaigners had visited Downing Street in November last year but received an “unsatisfactory” response.
Since then, the government reduced the planned £3 billion cuts to school budgets by £1.3bn, but the campaign group says the “fundamental issues remain unaltered.”
The Education Policy Institute has described the recruitment and retention crisis as “severe.”
Campaigners have also said that the new National Funding Formula has not been “meaningfully” implemented.
Under the formula, the vast majority of previously very low funded schools have not received the improvements that they were promised because any increases to their budgets have been capped at 3 per cent.
At the same time, all schools have been repeatedly hit by cuts to educational grants and significant increases to their cost base in areas such as employers’ National Insurance contributions and the Apprenticeship Levy.
Rae Snape, a head teacher from Cambridge, said it was the most vulnerable students who were suffering from a lack of funding.
“Reduction in services such as mental health and safeguarding means that demands for these have to be met by the already overstretched teaching staff,” she added.
Head teachers are also concerned that some schools, such as those in Westminster, receive up to 70 per cent more funding than others of identical size elsewhere in the country.
Campaigners emphasised that no school should have money taken away, but all schools should be funded adequately.
National Education Union joint general secretary Mary Bousted said it fully supported the head teachers’ protest.
She said: “Head teachers are tired of the endless repetition from government that school funding is adequate.
“The Department for Education’s claim that it is spending more on education than ever before is a disingenuous statement.
“It is misleading to parents and insulting to schools struggling to make ends meet as it ignores the impact of inflation and the increase in student numbers.
“As a result of school funding cuts, begging letters to parents for money are commonplace, subjects are being dropped from the curriculum, school trips and after-school trips vastly reduced or stopped, teacher and support staff are being cut and class sizes are on the increase.”
Ms Bousted added that Prime Minister Theresa May and Mr Hammond need to understand that head teachers and parents “cannot sit back” while the education system is “systematically run down.”
Demands by the campaigners also include a reverse to the real-terms cuts from the past eight years, and an immediate much needed £400 million injection to support the beleaguered Send and High Needs Block for children with disabilities.
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