From education to employment

Tories show no sign of undoing the damage caused by their cuts to schools

Commenting on reports in The Guardian about a leaked Department for Education briefing paper detailing policy proposals for schools in England,

angela rayner thumbnailAngela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: 

“Time after time Boris Johnson has backed Tory cuts to school budgets that created the crisis in our classrooms, while slashing taxes for the richest. Johnson shows no sign of taking the action needed to undo that damage, and isn’t even proposing to reverse the Conservatives’ cuts to schools since 2010.  

“It is concerning that this leaked document shows senior Tories casting doubt on the value of teaching assistants and suggesting that more cuts are on the way, despite the vital work they do, such as supporting children with special education needs.

“The next Labour government will fully reverse Tory cuts to our schools, increasing per pupil funding in real terms and offering a real terms pay rise to both teachers and support staff.” 

mary boustedDr 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. Obviously any extra money for schools will be welcome because schools are desperate for funding. The problem is this just isn’t enough. It will not make enough of a difference to counteract the scale of funding cuts that schools have already experienced.

“Schools and colleges need £12.6bn by 2022/23 if we are to fix the funding crisis. We arrived at that figure together with ASCL, NAHT and the f40 education fair funding campaign group. It shows that Boris Johnson’s leadership election pledge falls £8bn short of what is needed. The School Cuts campaign has shown how 91% of schools have lost funding since 2015. Our analysis shows that the Government would give more than half of schools no extra money at all. 

“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. 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.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Schools and colleges will welcome any genuine improvement to funding after a period of austerity which has been extremely challenging and has caused a great deal of damage. But they will need some convincing that any funding commitment really does address the crisis and isn’t simply part of a strategy for a forthcoming general election.

“Any extra money must be allocated immediately and it needs to be part of a longer-term commitment to reverse the education cuts because the sums of money being discussed are not enough to achieve that objective on their own. We are pleased to see that there is a proposal to improve teachers’ pay but once again we need to see the detail and be sure that this would be fully funded by the government and not an additional unfunded cost on schools.

“We welcome government support for schools in promoting good behaviour but we hope the focus on this issue in the briefing paper is not an election gimmick. The reality is that most behaviour is already good and that schools and colleges are already safe and disciplined environments. It is also the case that schools already have robust policies in place over the use of mobile phones and that they are in the best position to decide what approach works best in their context.

“Schools only exclude pupils as a last resort and in order to make sure that other pupils are able to learn in a safe and orderly environment. What they most need is sufficient funding so that they are better able to afford the cost of early intervention strategies which help to prevent challenging behaviour escalating to the point of an exclusion.”

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