By Voice General Secretary Deborah Lawson
At a time when the economy is once again on an upward trajectory, albeit rather slowly, and given the importance that the Government places on education and childcare as part of a sustained recovery to improve our ability to compete and succeed in business globally, concerns about education funding, including free early education, increase and a funding crisis seems to be inevitable.
The Government’s decision to sustain, rather than increase, school funding levels represents a funding cut, given that the employer National Insurance and pension contributions will increase along with other costs while budgets at best stagnate but in reality reach the point where a business would seriously be considering its continued viability.
We know from members and from the increasing volume of casework that schools are constantly reviewing and restructuring to cut costs. Having cut all other expenditure to the bone, schools are faced with the unpalatable prospect of making teachers and support staff redundant. Such action may reduce or prevent a deficit, but it will also increase class sizes and teacher workload and reduce access to, and opportunities to provide, activities in support of the curriculum and learning.
The amount of per pupil funding across the country can vary greatly and although funding reform to address this was promised in 2013, it failed to materialise. Additional funding allocated to the lowest funded areas of the country for 2015/16 is welcome and does at least recognise the problem, but a long-term solution is needed.
Education funding is a nationwide issue, whether in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. (See the joint union letter to The Sunday Times.)
Funding pressures exist in every sector of education, whether devolved or the responsibility of Westminster. Without reform, a recruitment and retention crisis – as teaching or working in education become a less and less attractive prospect for graduates – looms closer with the inevitable impact on pupils and education outcomes.
[Article written for August 2015 Your Voice.]