Parents and teachers angry over 'unfair' school funding

December 21 2018
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"Schools tend to have very outdated technology and there isn't money to replace slow computers. This affects our productivity in lessons as we can't get as much done.

"As a student I feel teachers work extremely hard and are pushed above and beyond what is expected of them. We are the future generation - aren't we worth investing in?"

The Fair Funding For All Schools meeting was called by South Glos teacher and parent Leilah Boyce who said parents are now waking up to the realities of funding cuts, thanks largely to the recent TV programme School.

"I have had conversations with parents and they are now saying there's a problem - the programme has really sparked the debate for people," she said.

Attendees were given leaflets showing how the income of schools in the area has changed since 2015, with many, including Hanham Woods, Sir Bernard Lovell, Mangotsfield, John Cabot and King's Oak secondary schools, down by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

 

Bleak

 

The picture was also bleak for primaries with many seeing budgets reduced by tens of thousands.

The meeting also heard from Steve Kneller, principal of Hanham Woods Academy, who described the situation as a "deepening crisis".

He said: "The Government says there is more money coming in and there might be - but it doesn't meet the increased costs of pension contributions, national insurance contributions, examination costs, text book costs, staff wages. Year on year headteachers are having to make really difficult decisions about what we cut but there’s not a lot more to cut.

"We can’t moan about it or wallow in self pity; we roll up our sleeves. The students show incredible resilience and the staff work incredibly hard. I know my primary colleagues would say the same. They are an absolute credit to the profession, working in really difficult circumstances."

Mr Kneller, who took over leaderships at Hanham Woods Academy in April 2016, pointed out the injustices of the system.

"The Government keeps on saying that there is record levels of funding (in education) which is just not true.

"It is also unfair that if a South Gloucestershire child went two miles down the road to Bristol they each be worth about £800 more. That would mean my school would have something like £750,000 a year more funding. Why is that? That seems grossly unfair."

Mr Keller said people could show their support by attending similar meetings, lobbying their MP and contacting South Gloucestershire Council.

He told attendees: "I would urge you to contact Toby Savage (leader of South Gloucestershire Council) because whilst there is central Government funding cuts, there is an element of South Gloucestershire’s choice in where they distribute their funding."

Mr Kneller said he also believed the community could help through support and projects.

"I know it shouldn’t be the case for parents and local tradespeople (to help) but if there is anything you can do to support primary schools and secondary schools, it will mean we won’t have to put our reduced funding to those things and that will help us."

Mr Kneller concluded by saying: "I felt I had to come to support both a parent (Leilah Boyce) and a student (Izzy Hempstead) and the local community in what is a deepening crisis."

The meeting also heard from Tara Northern, the mother of a SEND (special educational needs and disability) child affected by cuts and Tim Ruck, the headteacher of St Stephen's Infant School.

The meeting was attended by two other headteachers, Mike Coyne, the head of Hanham Primary Federation and Christopher Thomas, who leads Beacon Rise primary.

Parents at the meeting were encouraged to lobby MP Chris Skidmore as well as South Gloucestershire councillors. 

They were handed postcards to fill out and return to Mr Skidmore which urged him to lobby ministers to ensure all schools have sufficient funds to give children a decent education.

The postcard also asks the MP to work to change the system which makes South Gloucestershire schools the worst-funded in the country and to address SEND funding issues.

It was also suggested parents set up linked Fair Funding groups to highlight issues facing individual schools. Pressure will continue with meetings, school-gate leafleting and street stalls.