Still not listening

Reading time: 2 minutes. Relevant campaign: Worth Less?

Today (Friday 28 September) our chief executive, Sue, and I joined thousands of headteachers and school leaders on the march to Downing Street to deliver a letter and petition to the chancellor, urgently requesting sufficient, and fair, funding for our schools.

Headteachers are among the most respected and trusted individuals in our society; important figures in the community – and aren’t known for their industrial action! Indeed, today was not a strike – the hundreds of thousands of pupils in these headteachers’ schools all continued learning in their classrooms today. It was in no way unionised, although ASCL, NAHT and the NEU were there to quietly and discreetly support their members along with SSAT. These were headteachers, in their usual smart suits and blouses, being relentlessly reasonable.

By our reckoning there were some 2000 headteachers in Westminster this morning – from LAs from Cornwall to Cumbria. For headteachers to march in this number is, we think, unprecedented. In many ways it was a great sight to see.

It was also deeply upsetting and depressing. These heads would all have preferred to be doing their day jobs: working with their children and staff in their schools. But so many schools are on the knees when it comes to budgets, and their leaders are understandably desperate. This is why 2000 relentlessly reasonable professionals travelled to London this morning. Surely, surely, such an unprecedented act requires at least a change of tone from the DfE and government; and hopefully urgent action.

Such an unprecedented act requires at least a change of tone from the DfE and government; and hopefully urgent action

Yet even this morning, Nick Gibb and other sources from the DfE repeated the frustrating claim that there is more money in the system than ever before. This may be technically true, but is deeply misleading to the public. This figure does not take account of rising school costs (way above inflation) and the many more students in the system. Independent, non-partisan organisations like the IMF agree that school funding has, in real terms, been cut by 8% since 2010 – not to mention that regional funding differences remain woefully unfair and unjust.

The government, and society, constantly expects more and more from our schools – whether promoting fundamental British values or offering internal careers guidance. School leaders have responded to these demands admirably, while navigating the raft of reforms introduced by the former Coalition government. But without sufficient funding, schools are simply unable to offer quality education going forward. Quality education requires adequate funding.

School costs continue to rise; even this week there is uncertainty about how much schools will have to find for the new contributions to teachers’ pensions from next year, and in the future. It is no exaggeration to say that many schools find themselves at crisis point.

Whatever your role reading this, please do support the continued campaign for funding, however you can. It’s in all our interests to do so. As with the whole campaign, started by the Worth Less? group in Sussex, this latest petition is entirely apolitical; instead, it’s a reasonable reaction to a genuine problem, by reasonable and respected professionals.

After today’s unprecedented march, the government cannot continue to not listen, or repeat misleading statistics. On behalf of all of us at SSAT, thank you to every headteacher who made the bold decision to come out today, and you have our full support in this campaign, which will continue and indeed be reinforced until we secure fair and sufficient funding for our schools.

Worth Less?

For further details, please see the document – a review of Worth Less? – and feel free to contact Jules White for more detailed information.
01403 755989 direct

Read on the SSAT blog: #stillnotlistening – Sufficient and Fair Funding for Every School

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