It is a mark of the depth of feeling about the impact of the funding crisis in schools that the issue now appears to have transcended traditional party lines.
A cross-party parliamentary group has called on Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, to increase funding for education and argues that the funding crisis has already caused untold damage to schools. The group warns that any continuation of funding cuts is likely to risk permanent damage to the quality of education in this country.
For the last couple of years now, the stock government response to any questions regarding education funding has been to claim that funding has never been higher.
To put things bluntly, this answer has always failed to fool too many people. After all, the population has never been higher, so it obviously follows that pupil numbers have never been higher too. The total money in the education pot has never been the issue. The problem has always been that funding per pupil has been greatly reduced.
Frankly, when even MPs on the government’s side are calling for an increase to funding, it is really an admission that any denial that there is a genuine funding crisis in education is not just futile – it’s actually insulting too.
Calls for equal opportunities for all children
In what amounts to a damning indictment of government policy since 2010, the cross-party group have written a letter to Philip Hammond to call for equal education opportunities for all children, regardless of where they live in the country. The group are demanding an immediate cash injection of £1.4billion into the education budget. Not only that, they are asking Hammond to remove the historic funding inequalities that exist in the system. Statistics show that some schools receive as much as £3000 less in funding per child per year than other schools.
Has permanent damage already been done?
The question is whether or not permanent damage has already been done to education in this country as a result of the funding crisis.
The fair answer is probably that whilst it may not be permanent, serious damage has most certainly already been done. It will take years and years for schools in this country to recover.
Aside from the funding cuts, the recent reform of GCSEs has created an increasingly narrow curriculum which can be viewed, at best, as having too much of a focus on academic subjects. At worst, it can easily be argued that the curriculum is unsuitable for many young people and therefore not fit for purpose.
Entire subjects have been culled from school curriculums up and down the country. Support staff have been decimated. Some schools have been left with no option but to close early one day a week or to crowdfund to raise money for basic equipment. The recruitment and retention crisis is worsening rather than improving.
The cross-party group argues that all the government is essentially doing with its new ‘fairer funding formula’ is replacing one unfair and fundamentally flawed system with another.
All in all, the problems faced by schools as a result of funding cuts are not going to be waved away instantly by a magic wand or a big bag of cash. These are challenges that will take as long as a decade to really recover from.