Disaster: Eight per cent cut in school funding

Tonight parents, at least one grandparent, teachers, school support staff, further education lecturers and politicians gathered in Sheffield to discuss how to respond to the massive cuts being faced by Sheffield schools.

What cuts, you might say? I’ve only heard about the new so-called “fair funding formula” – and we know London school will suffer that, but the government is just rebalancing over-funding there, so they tell us.

Well you don’t have to believe the teachers’ unions or political commentators, for no lesser authority than the National Audit Office has concluded that schools will have to make £3 billion in cuts by 2019-2010, amounting to a an 8% cut in real-terms funding.

In Sheffield, it is primary schools that are being worst hit in immediate terms by the “fair funding formula” – although of course those pupils will soon be secondary pupils – and their schools will have to scramble, and use resources, to make up for gaps.

To find out how every school in Sheffield (and around the country) is affected, this website has the full details.

While loss of staff is mostly being expressed in terms of numbers of teachers, in reality each class has to have a teacher, so it is support staff that are being hit first – teaching assistants in particular. We heard tonight that a “slash and burn” of staff is already underway, with union representatives struggling to cope with the numbers. Support particularly for students with Special Educational Needs and those for whom English is an additional language are likely to particularly suffer.

The cuts are being used to push even further the disastrous Conservative agenda of academisation of schools – a policy that absorbs even more precious funds through a hidden privatisation that sees schools forced to purchase services previously supplied through local authorities from expensive for-profit firms, and removed from local democratic control.

More, they are interacting with other Tory education policies that aim to suppress creative subjects in favour of a narrow mix of academic subjects. Choice of subjects is being lost to cuts, and the arts subjects essential to life – and our future economic prospects – are being dropped.

Schools are being forced to become exam factories.  As one contributor tonight said, the Tory aim is to ensure most pupils are educated to obediently follow instructions and not question.

But there’s going to be resistance – there was a strong determination tonight to get together different groups and organisations to ensure parents know what’s going on. And for me, one focus must be to ensure pupils know about the issue and have the chance to get campaigning.

There’s a very political generation of teens now – and they can be a powerful force of opposition.

Tonight I took a moment to read a pamphlet about the Chartists in Sheffield. It reported Isaac Ironside saying at Sheffield’s first Chartist meeting,1838 that the movement must campaign for good schools for children.

The campaign continues.

P.S. Chesterfield is ahead of us on this: they have a delightfully titled “Only Fools Would Cut Schools” event on April 1