Parents, students, governors, support staff, teachers and councillors are being urged to make their voices heard over school funding as long-term underfunding begins to hit local schools by attending the above rally tim ed to coincide with the Autumn Statement.
'Restructures' are taking place in many schools with support staff likely to be hit by redundancies. As Wembley Matters has pointed out before support staff have become vital to the achievement of higher quality education in Brent schools. They run special programmes of support in primary schools with a focus on maths and literacy, deliver 1:1 programmes on speech and language that may have previously been delivered by speech therapists, and provide behaviour and pastoral support.
A long way from the 'washing paintpots' role of the 70s that readers may have experienced.
Teaching support staff are so integrated into the classroom that many children see them as another teacher.
The differences are hidden and include low pay and for some term-time only contracts. In Brent they are overwhelmingly women and ethnic minority and if the main wage earner, often have to take on another job in order to make ends meet.
By far the biggest proportion of the school budget is spent on salaries. Essential equipment and materials prices have increased with inflation. not to leave out soaring energy costs, so it is staffing costs that bear the brunt of budget cuts. Every class or subject has to have a teacher, so inevitably it is support staff, the often invisible backbone of the school, who face redundancy.
The situation is so bad that the National Education Union now runs training sessions for its school representatives in restructuring and redundancy - and resistance:
Local authority schools (as distinct from academies) that are unable to balance their budget can request a 'licensed deficit'. This means the LA will support them over a period of several years to bring their budget back into balance. They have to submit plans to reduce costs over that period to gain a licence and this can mean more time to allow 'natural wastage' to take effect, as long as it includes a rationale that maintains the quality of education in the longer term. A difficult task. The LA's capacity to do this is limited by its own financial constraints so it is not the answer to widespread difficulties.
Falling pupil numbers also contribute to the budget crisis as schools are funded per pupil. If schools cannot fill their classes the staffing costs for a teacher (and a class teaching assistant) remain the same for a 24 pupil class as for a 30 pupil class. Smaller classes are welcome but need proper funding. Brent Council is currently reviewing primary provision and will be proposing changes such as reducing some schools by a class per year with the possibility of mergers or closures in the longer term. They are currently consulting on the closure of the Brentfield Road site of Leopold Primary School.
There have been decades of under-investment in schools. This year was going to be difficult anyway but the situation has been made worse by the Government's mistake in the simple foecast of the number of pupils in schools, so that schools have a lower budget than promised.
Leaders of the teaching unions wrote to the Secretary of State on October 15th:
On 17 July, Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the House of Commons:
“Funding for mainstream schools through the schools National Funding Formula is increasing by 2.7 per cent per pupil compared to 2023-24.
“The minimum per-pupil funding levels (MPPLs) will increase by 2.4 per cent compared to 2023-24. This will mean that, next year, every primary school will receive at least £4,655 per pupil, and every secondary school at least £6,050.
“The core factors in the schools NFF (such as basic per-pupil funding, and the lump sum that all schools attract) will increase by 2.4 per cent.”
On 6 October we were informed that there had been an error resulting in an underestimate in forecasting pupil numbers, and that the NFF tables issued in July were being revised and republished to stay within the already announced Core Schools Budget.
Funding for mainstream schools through the schools NFF will now increase by just 1.9 per cent. The minimum per-pupil funding level for primary schools will be £4,610 (£45 less per pupil) and for secondary schools it will be £5,995 (£55 less per pupil). The core factors of the NFF will now only increase by 1.4 per cent.Government’s revisions to the NFF, in light of higher than forecast pupil numbers, effectively reduce the value of the NFF by £370 million. Schools are already having difficulty balancing their books; some will now face the very real prospect of cuts to provision.
Brent teachers and parents are already hearing about the difficulties and proposed cuts to provision. The November 22nd Rally organisers say:
After more than a decade of underfunding of education, we see the results in crumbling buildings, a profound teacher recruitment crisis and redundancies and restructures in schools across the city.
Cuts to Special Educational Needs provision are damaging the education and life chances of millions of children and young people.
Hear from those organising and fighting for the money we need, including trade unionists, parent campaigners and politicians.
Join the short demonstration beforehand as parliament meets to hear the Tories' Autumn Statement. Bring friends, colleagues and family to demand better. Save our schools, fund education.
Join the Resistance - book your place HERE