Fair funding – the Hackney experience
Headteachers are being forced to implement school cuts in England, the bulk of which will hit school support for disabled pupils and those with SEN, behaviour support workers, teaching assistants and individual support teachers, damaging the chances of successful inclusion.
The campaign waged in the run-up to the election has led to a partial climb-down by the government, but they are still intent on redistributing money from the schools most in need. The need to redouble efforts and keep campaigning is obvious.
It is estimated that the NUT Campaign Against Education Cuts added 800,000 votes to Labour in the run-up to the general election and was one of the main reasons Tory MPs lost safe seats like Canterbury. The NUT website, schoolcuts.org.uk, showing the combined effects of the 8% cut in real terms funding due to rises in pension and National Insurance contributions and the apprenticeship levy, combined with the effects of a new funding formula, showed nearly every school was a loser. 18,329 schools in England would lose out. The primary average cut was £86,951 or £338 per pupil and secondary average cut was £370,298 or £436 per pupil. This campaign was supported by the ATL (merging with NUT from September), the NAHT heads’ union, Unison, Unite, GMB and most importantly many parents’ groups. After the election, Justine Greening promised £1.3bn funding for schools in England to head off a Conservative revolt, raiding the budget for free schools and new buildings to pay for the rise.
She said schools would get the bailout over the next two years, after complaints from Conservative MPs that failure to deal with concerns about struggling schools cost the government its majority at the election (Guardian 17th July 17). In a partial compromise, Greening also announced a delay in full implementation of the controversial new national funding formula, which means some schools getting more money and some losing cash per pupil in real terms. Under the plans, the new formula would only be indicative for its first two years in 2018 and 2019, with local authorities getting discretion in how to distribute the money during that time. The bulk of the cash will come from an unidentified £600m of new cuts to the central Department for Education budget. A further £200m will come from the free schools’ budget by building 30 out of a planned 140 as local authority schools instead. Greening will also take £420m from the capital budget for building and repairs, mostly from the “healthy pupils” funding for sports facilities and wellbeing. This is not new money, which is needed to resolve the issue. Poorly funded schools need to be levelled up to the funding of the best, not cut.
In Hackney, due for a cut of 23%, four public meetings were addressed by parents, headteachers, teachers and councillors. The parent-led Hackney Fair Funding for All Schools held a hustings with six big parents’ assemblies, and banners outlining the cuts hung outside many schools. There was strike action against compulsory redundancies at Parkwood Primary, the Central Inclusion and Special Support Team, Our Lady’s Convent, Stoke Newington and B-Six Sixth Form Centre. In all cases compulsory redundancies were avoided. But non-replacement of vacant posts means increasing workload and less support time for individual children. Although Hackney schools have improved dramatically due to good staffing, Hackney still excludes more pupils than any other London Borough and needs to keep its staff.
The likelihood, without a change of government, is that it will become harder and harder to get disabled children properly included. The answer is organising staff and parents to be proactive locally and to fight politically for funding of inclusion for all children. This means an increase in the percentage of GDP spent on education.
Richard Rieser, World of Inclusion