School's thanks to parents fighting back in face of funding crisis
Published on: 14 May 2017
Education in South Gloucestershire is facing a double challenge. Secondary schools are underperforming and must make rapid improvements - while at the same time managing the huge budget pressures affecting schools at all levels. Leaders, teachers, parents and councillors are rising up to tackle the crisis. Linda Tanner reports
Abbeywood Community School has expressed its gratitude for a new parent-led campaign which is calling on the government for improved funding.
More than 300 people turned out for a public meeting in Hambrook to launch the Fair Funding for all Schools - South Glos campaign and hundreds more have signed a petition calling for action.
Abbeywood Community School, which is currently consulting with staff about savings that need to be made, says that it is grateful for the support and passion of the local community.
The Olympus Academy Trust, which runs Abbeywood and Bradley Stoke community schools, made headlines in February after its CEO Dave Baker said the trust was at “crisis point” and called on parents for “regular financial contributions”.
Dave Howe, headteacher at Abbeywood Community School, said: "We are consulting with our staff about making the financial savings required of us next year and have started by seeking voluntary solutions.
“Our decision-making process is based on ensuring our students are able to succeed in their learning and be safe and supported in school. We are protecting teaching in core subjects and seeking efficiencies at every level of our organisation - including senior management, teaching and support staff.
“We continue to focus on having the very best teachers working with our students in class every day, delivering a broad and rich curriculum.
“I am so proud of our staff who continue to focus on teaching our students with enthusiasm every day despite the uncertainty we face as a profession.
“We are grateful for the support of the parent-led campaign and the passion and determination of our school community to ensure that we continue to offer the quality of education that our young people deserve."
The Fair Funding for all Schools – South Glos was launched at the Holiday Inn in Hambrook on April 6 in response to the financial pressures facing schools across the area.
But doesn’t the Government keep telling us that it is spending more on education than ever?
Yes, that’s true, Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, told the meeting - but only because there are more schools and more children than before.
Individually, almost all schools are facing a squeeze on their budgets that is going to get worse, even before the introduction of the proposed new National Funding Formula in April 2018.
Increased National Insurance and pension contributions, wage rises and the apprenticeship levy mean that in real terms, schools are set to have about eight per cent less money, according to the National Audit Office.
These constraints will force them to make tough choices: cutting jobs, reducing the curriculum and stopping trips and after-school clubs.
A website set up by the NUT and other unions - schoolcuts.org - gives predictions for every school in England and the budget crisis each could face by 2020 based on Department for Education figures.
It is these forecasts that have provoked anger around the country. Feelings are running particularly high in South Gloucestershire, which has historically been one of the worst funded local authorities in the country. Schools in the district receive per-pupil funding that is several hundred pounds below that for Bristol, for example.
The National Funding Formula was supposed to iron out those differences, but campaigners say 98 per cent of children across the land will be worse off. Some Conservative MPs are putting pressure on Ministers to think again, and their views are shared by Tory leaders on South Gloucestershire Council.
That’s why Fair Funding for all Schools is urging parents, teachers and governors to lobby their local MPs - none of whom has yet spoken out against the formula - to persuade them to join the protest.
Local councillor Adam Monk said councillors should not underestimate the strength of public anger about the underfunding of schools.