Brighton and Hove’s secondary heads have added their voices to a growing chorus of teachers and parents concerned at the implications of looming education funding cuts, saying the joy of learning could be lost as schools struggle to balance their budgets.
The government says it is overhauling the schools funding system to make it fairer across the country – but critics say there is a critical shortfall of money in the first place.
Although the total given to schools has increased, schools are having to hand more than the extra cash straight back to the government in increased national insurance and pensions contributions, business rates and other charges.
A parents campaign, Save Our Schools, has been launched this month, and last week primary heads wrote an open letter to city MPs saying the cuts would stretch them “beyond breaking point”.
And now the city’s secondary heads have written their own open letter as part of a national campaign, saying that Brighton and Hove is already one of the lowest funded education authorities, and the cuts would lower morale and put schools on the back foot.
Richard Bradford, head of Dorothy Stringer, said that other city heads were concerned about how the cuts would affect their schools.
He said: “Brighton and Hove is already one of the lowest funded local authorities in the country and individual schools will have to decide how best they manage the cuts.
“For some this will mean job losses and increases to class sizes. Staff may not be replaced when they leave and resources will be stretched. Many extra-curricular activities will be axed. All of this will impact on teaching and learning.
“These pressures thwart schools developing new initiatives and adopting new technology and resources, we are always on the back foot. The impact of this on morale in the profession as a whole affects recruitment – the shortage of applicants is so severe it is jeopardising our drive to improve standards in schools.
“The impact is already being felt on teaching, learning and student progress. As pressure increases on staff and students, the joy of learning will be lost, thereby impacting on attendance, behaviour, well-being and ultimately, standards.
“We need to take a good look at the formula for distributing funds to schools but first we need to ensure that there is sufficient funds allocated to it.”
The letter, addressed to Hove MP Peter Kyle, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas and Brighton Pavilion MP Simon Kirby, says: “The Department for Education continues to divert significant monies to capital and revenue funding such as free school provision and grammar school expansion and this does not always guarantee value for money. At the same time, our schools simply do not have adequate funds to provide the education that every child in our care needs and deserves.
“To see such ill-judged spending being prioritised in a time of austerity is unacceptable. The disconnect between a Department making decisions that seem to entirely ignore the wishes and needs of dedicated and committed school leaders provides significant and tangible cause for concern.
“School leaders simply want a reasonable settlement that sees every child in every school adequately funded. There is no question that schools with differing contextual challenges should be funded differently but this should not come at the expense of allowing every school to operate effectively on behalf of the pupils’ families and communities that we serve.”
The city’s MPs outlined their responses to the changes in school funding yesterday, in response to a request for an urgent meeting from the National Association of Headteachers in a letter signed by most of the city’s primary school heads.