Reading time: 3 minutes. Relevant campaign: Worth Less?
How headteachers can make a difference
Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, adds his support to the June 2018 Headteachers’ Roundtable blog; and conclusions from a recent Arcadis/SSAT report offer schools some suggestions for coping in the meantime.
Apparently, schools have never had it so good. There’s more money than ever before and record numbers of teachers are available to work in our schools. This view from government and the DfE lacks credibility. The experience of many schools and their headteachers is very different.
Over three years, the campaign group Worth Less? has given headteachers a voice to raise legitimate concerns and to challenge the unhelpful and misleading/partial information which is regularly put forward by national policymakers. Worth Less? now represents over 6000 primary, special and secondary schools across 35 counties. We are entirely non-political and champion three fundamental causes:
- Fair and sufficient funding for all schools
- Much improved teacher supply and retention
- Enhanced social mobility for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students that we serve.
Along with professional associations, groups such as the Headteachers Roundtable, F40 and various parental pressure groups, Worth Less? has helped shape some improved educational strategy and decision making and softened some of the severe financial cuts planned for our schools. It is widely agreed, however, that the current direction of travel from the government/ DfE does not take us anywhere near where we need to go. The new National Funding Formula provides a mechanism for financial distribution which is better than before, but a fundamental lack of investment means that it is deeply flawed. In our view, the government/ DfE is still not listening hard enough.
On Friday 28 September over 1000 headteachers from across the country will gather at Downing Street to ensure that our schools and the communities that we serve are prioritised. With a collective and entirely reasonable voice we will urge the government to improve matters both now and in the future.
In the short term, we will emphasise that the chancellor must ensure that major rising cost pressures on our budgets have to be meaningfully addressed and improved. Any public sector pay agreements should be fully funded and crisis hit AEN/SEND and sixth form budgets must be given emergency relief funding. In the longer term, the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review must ensure that every school is sufficiently funded.
For a long time, individual headteachers have found it difficult to demonstrate the challenges that our profession faces. When we gather at Downing Street we can act as one, regardless of our individual settings or particular needs.
What you can do
- Please save the date – Friday 28 September.
- Commit to coming to London and don’t leave it to somebody else.
- Organise other local heads to attend with you.
Heads in counties as far away as Cumbria and Cornwall have already said that they will be there. Larger counties which are also close to London have committed between 50 and 100 heads per county/area. We will get 1000+ headteachers to join us, but it does depend on a concerted joint effort.
And in the meantime
Some of the Arcadis/SSAT report’s conclusions and observations:
- Schools looked firstly to make cuts; many are now considering possible ways of generating income.
- There is considerable variation in the options open to schools in terms of both finding cost savings and ways of generating income. Geography, competition with other schools and staff recruitment issues can all limit the options available to some schools. PFI schools have more restrictions placed on them than most and are often unable to renegotiate contracts for key services.
- There are some clear tensions – for example, the difficulties of running commercial services while also reducing the number of non-teaching staff. Also, the pressures placed on teachers who may have larger classes but less non-contact time.
- Where schools feel that they can afford buildings maintenance only in emergency circumstances, they may be storing up problems for the future.
- Few respondents were making much use of technology as a cost-saving device – this could be considered further.
- Collaboration between schools can provide cost-saving opportunities, but these relationships take time to build and require support to maintain.
- More helpful guidance is needed on both efficiencies and income generation.
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: What to make of the pay review
Jules White, Headteacher, Tanbridge House School