Commenting on a leaked Department for Education document published in the Guardian, which sets out education policy plans, Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“We need to see what actually is announced in next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review. On the face of it this just won’t make enough of a difference to counteract the scale of funding cuts that schools have already experienced.

“The School Cuts campaign has shown how 91% of schools have lost funding since 2015. If we are to restore cuts already made, and cope with the extra costs put on schools and the increase in pupil numbers, we need additional revenue rising to £12.6bn per year by 2022/23. Alongside ASCL, NAHT and the F40 education fair funding campaign group, we have proposed a phased way of increasing to that figure per year (1). Anything less sets a course for continuing real-terms cuts in schools and colleges. Boris Johnson’s pledge currently falls £8bn short of our target.

“Any money for schools is welcome, but unless this is part of a programme for restituting the cuts and coping with future costs and pupil increases, then this is just pre-Election campaigning. Our phased increase would have seen another £3bn for schools this September, and a further £3.4bn for April 2020. The Government is promising nothing like that amount and has made no promises for the phased increase that the Coalition has demanded.

“Efforts to portray this severe short-changing as an electoral winner will continue to be challenged robustly by the National Education Union.

“We do absolutely need good discipline in schools, and there are effective strategies to achieve that.  Teachers and school staff are already able to use ‘reasonable restraint’, but the leaked proposals of ‘reasonable force’ implies additional kinds of physical contact. This seems dangerously open to interpretation – what one person considers to be ‘reasonable’ another person may not. We don’t want teachers exercising reasonable force, we want well-disciplined schools which are well funded.

“Exclusion is a sometimes necessary, unfortunate option that a school and a school leader must be able to take. The danger with giving such a broad green light to exclusion, is that children who already need education the most are most likely to be denied it.

“Suggestions of cutting teaching assistants is further proof of how out of touch the Government is. TAs play an essential role in the classroom and school. Schools have already been forced to reduce staffing because of real-terms cuts, and it is a clear demonstration of how far the cuts bite that 59% of our support staff members report having do work that should properly be undertaken by teachers. They are seen as the cheap option, and without serious investment they will continue to be exploited.

“Boris Johnson and his party still do not understand the full scale of the crisis facing schools.  The Government must invest in all schools and colleges across the country and give councils the powers they need to open schools where there is genuine need for new places. Instead, it seems they intend to throw more public money at their failed and discredited free school programme. (2) They need to restore the real terms value of teachers’ pay and remove the excessive workload and accountability burdens that are driving teachers out of the profession.”

ENDS

Editor’s note

  1. Coalition unveils long-term funding plan to reverse education cuts, 15 July 2019 
  2. Edufacts: Free Schools

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