The Independent London Newspaper
23rd June 2017

Threat to school jobs as headteachers grapple with 'zombie budgets' after funding formula change

    Kevin Courtney: 'Begging letters to parents are common'

    Published: 12 January, 2017
    By RICHARD OSLEY

    SCHOOLS have begun mapping out drastic measures to cope with funding cuts – and jobs are on the line, unions have warned.

    Unison, which represents non-teaching support staff in many schools, said that at least two primaries in the borough have warned union convenors that staff costs will have to be reduced after inner-city areas like Camden were cast as the losers in a change to government funding formulas.

    The government’s Dep­artment for Education wants to level up the money spent on schools across the country, but critics say the changes will cause pain for schools where extra investment has traditionally been needed due to the number of disadvantaged children on the rolls.

    Government figures suggest schools in Camden are set to lose an average of 2.8 per cent of their annual budgets from next April.

    With funding falling but inflation rising each year, campaigners say headteachers and governors in Camden will be among 9,000 schools in urban areas grappling with what have been dubbed “zombie budgets” in the next few years. Ultimately performance in state schools will be affected, they warn.

    The union, which is working with Camden branch of the National Union of Teachers on a campaign against the formula changes, said crucial jobs were under threat, particularly in early years provision. 

    It reported that at one school, which has not been named, emergency action was needed last year to ensure that it could still run GCSE and A-level exams in some subjects, while it is claimed access to science and design curriculums has been restricted in some cases due to cost.

    Hugo Pierre, from Camden Unison, said: “Camden schools face years of zombie budgets. These will eat deeply into the learning provided for our schoolchildren. 

    “Parents will rightly fear that ‘outstanding’ could soon become ‘needs improvement’ as staff shortages and a lack of resources become the norm. 

    “These proposals from a weak government must be opposed by parents joining the school workforce to fight for a quality education service in Camden and across London.”

    The NUT reported last year that by 2019 Camden schools could have £13million less a year to spend due to the change of formula, the equivalent of 352 teachers on £37,000-a-year salaries, or £691 per pupil. 

    It commissioned the www.schoolcuts.org.uk website, which details the likely losses at each school.

    General secretary Kevin Courtney, a former branch secretary in Camden, said: “Balancing the books has become the worst aspect of many heads’ jobs. Begging letters to parents for equipment, repairs and resources are common. 

    “School staff posts are being left unfilled. Class sizes are increasing and the curriculum is being pared back to the basics, as arts and vocational subjects are being lost.”

    A Department for Education spokesman said: “The proposals we are consulting on will mean an end to the postcode lottery in school funding. Under the proposed national schools funding formula, more than half of England’s schools will receive a cash boost in 2018-19. This will help to create a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode. 

    “Under the proposals, small rural schools – which typically face higher costs as a result of their size and location – will gain on average 1.3 per cent. Small primary schools in sparse communities will see even larger gains of 5.3 per cent on average.”

    A public meeting to discuss the changes is to be held at Haverstock School on February 8.

     

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