Around 2,000 headteachers and senior school officials gathered outside Downing Street recently to stage a protest at the negative impact of shrinking budgets in their schools and colleges. The group organised themselves through the grassroots WorthLess? campaign, developed by Jules White, head of Tanbridge House School, based in West Sussex. Before delivering a letter to the UK’s chancellor, Phil Hammond, the group weaved its way from Parliament Square to Downing Street. The letter outlined the dangers faced by schools and colleges due to seven years of austerity, and was signed by heads from various parts of England, plus school officials from Northern Ireland and Wales.
The educational system in Hampshire is in a dire situation due to inadequate funding. As a school head since 2009, I had always had a deputy head until last year when we couldn’t afford the post anymore. The situation is compounded by the £65,000 reduction in our lump sum funding, which severely impacted the quality of education we offer. Although there’s an increase in our per-pupil funding, our budget still has a considerable £20,000 shortfall annually. This shortfall affects small schools like ours, with only 115 pupils, and other village schools even more severely. We are not asking for a lot of money, but just enough to enable us to offer broad and balanced curriculum and pay our staff.
“I am 57 years of age, and this is the first protest I have ever participated in. We have gradually run out of areas to reduce costs in our budget without severely impacting the education of our pupils. In the past, A-level classes had between ten to fifteen pupils, but now they have up to 25 students per class. Our school used to replace any teacher who left immediately, but since 2010, we ask ourselves if we can survive without replacing them.”
“It’s disheartening to hear that all schools receive increased funding because it’s not the case. If we continued in the current pace, my school could lose up to £500 per pupil in the next five years. That’s over £1 million in total for my school. It is critical to find a sustainable solution. We can no longer fund provisions like mental health support or some courses. Our expenditures are analyzed and scrutinized before we can make a decision. More often than not, I have to say no to requests. We are merely trying to provide an excellent education to our pupils."