This debate has been triggered by a group of head teachers in Gateshead who, late last year, launched an e-petition to increase funding for schools. (1) The petition, which passed 100,000 signatures, highlights the cuts that schools are having to make due to their income not keeping pace with rising costs.

Some of the comments sent by NEU members to their local MPs show the alarming impact they are having on schools and colleges. They are the very real experience of heads, teachers, school support staff:

“I am having problems even getting a request for basic equipment such as glue sticks to be approved these days. I have pupils making GCSE projects from wood I have salvaged from skips and redundant pallets.” [teacher from Diss]

“Dagenham is one of the most deprived areas in the country. We have high numbers of children with SEND, including mental health issues. My head has had to make tough decisions about who loses out - it's like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Something has to be done.” [teacher from Dagenham]

“The Minister's claim that more money is going into schools than ever before is pure sophistry. Schools are facing more on costs and more pension contributions and so on. In real terms we are startlingly poorer. We do not have budget for staff training, resources or opportunities for children and will therefore struggle under the new framework that Ofsted are currently consulting in with its focus on the wider curriculum.” [teacher from Oxford]

A longer selection of quotes can be found in the Editor’s Note below.

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: “It is nothing short of scandalous that Government is refusing to recognise the impact a lack of funding is having on schools. Teachers, head teachers, support staff, parents and MPs on all sides of the house are not fooled or impressed by the mantra of those on Theresa May’s frontbench who insist there is no crisis. The real losers here are our children and young people.  As a result of budget constraints schools are having to increase class sizes, drop subjects from the curriculum, greatly reduce SEND support, ignore building repairs, and make all manner of other cuts. This is an entirely unacceptable situation. Education is one of the most important things a Government can provide for its citizens, and currently it is failing miserably in its duty.”

Editor’s Notes

  1. Full text of petition:

“In my school specifically, we struggle to meet the needs of individual students due to funding issues within the SEN department. Staff cuts have been made in the past, and limited funding and resources means the range of qualifications that are offered to learners has also been reduced.” [teacher from Walsall]

“Our class sizes have dramatically increased for the lower ability. We used to have very small classes of 10-12 students which helped to address their additional needs but currently these classes in Y7 and Y8 have increased to 30 students which allows a third less time for every student.” [teacher from Broxbourne]

“We have already lost the emotional and pastoral support outside of the classroom and with fewer support staff members we will be able to provide less and less individual support to our most vulnerable.”  [teacher from Barnstaple]

“Last year, the school I work at had to lose many of its teaching assistants due to lack of money. We lost about half of the teaching assistants, which has had a major impact this year. There is less support for the pupils that need it and teachers are being stretched, which has led to longer working hours for myself and many of my colleagues.” [teacher from London]

“Staff workloads are increasing and at the moment, my department does not have enough money to buy whiteboard pens. It is shocking how much of our own salary is spent on classroom resources.” [teacher in Skipton]

“Since I began teaching six years ago, the number of trips taken to support the children's education has significantly reduced, instead of one per topic we are lucky if we have one per year. The school can't afford transport and they can't afford to subsidise the trips.” [teacher from Bridport]

“Schools are dirty because they cannot afford proper cleaning, barely able to afford photocopying for resources, reduced numbers of Teaching Assistants to support children, support staff have been reduced so much redundant that teachers are having to pick up unnecessary and bureaucratic jobs.” [teacher in Lincoln]

“I have to buy equipment and supplies for my job, these have included glue sticks, activities, resources for SEN children, towels to dry their hands and reading books.” [teacher in Redbridge]

“I am a qualified teacher now working and being paid as a Teaching Assistant, but I am being used to cover classes as the school cannot afford to employ supply teachers. Other Teaching Assistants who are not qualified teachers are also being used. I understand this is becoming normal practice across many schools. Children are being taught by unqualified staff.” [teaching assistant from Littlehampton]

“Where I teach we have less than 5 working student computers in a maths department of a school of over 1200 students. Students leave our school with little or no knowledge of the use of IT in business and education. How can this be OK?” [teacher from Bridgwater]

“We no longer have the funds to pay for teacher training events or to purchase new set texts for our classes. More and more, I find that I am buying resources for my classroom. Just today I purchased 14 copies of Othello as we only had 25 to go around 60 students. This cost me £30 which, while I don’t begrudge paying, really should be financed directly by the government - not via my salary.” [teacher from London]

“I am particularly concerned about the loss of support for children with emotional and mental health difficulties. This is an increasing issue in primary schools today and yet one which class teachers are forced to attempt to deal with alongside their main role of whole class teaching. This is creating a crisis for the future and is something which urgently needs addressing in order to enable schools to help children develop into happy, healthy and successful adults.” [teacher from Henfield]

“For example, I personally pay for additional resources to supplement my teaching, including lesson resources, DVDs and even stationery. I have also had to buy other items such as reading books for my classroom. We currently cannot afford to even replace our dictionaries and thesauruses, which is a genuine concern. The College are doing everything in their power to minimise the impact of these cuts on the students but with continuing rising costs and expenses this is becoming very difficult.” [teacher from Camberley]

“Staff are being asked to teach non-specialist subjects - i.e. maths teachers are teaching geography and drama teachers teaching maths due to budgeting.” [teacher from Ilford]

“I will be retiring from teaching this summer after almost 45 years. Schools have changed drastically over those years, but the needs of the pupils remain the same. All children are entitled to the best education possible, but this cannot happen without proper funding. Our school need to update its dated computer system at a cost of £80,000. This is not an added extra but a necessity to prepare our pupils for their future job prospects.” [teacher from Brentwood]