Schools are in a bad place at the moment. Two of the key reasons for this are budget cuts and a shortage of teachers.
The Coalition government’s policies have meant that funding has already suffered cuts. For example capital funding has been cut back a third in real terms. The Conservatives have said they will maintain school funding in cash terms. However inflation is cutting into the real value of funding and higher Employer National Insurance and pension contributions will add 5% to costs. Schools are already cutting back on staff such as teaching assistants and technicians.
At the same time, rising pupil numbers are putting the whole school system under strain. The government needs to provide more money for the estimated 1 million growth in numbers over the next 10 years. Unfortunately councils are unable to plan properly as all new schools must be free schools and academies which are not under their control and can be set up as and how they like.
Cuts to local authority services are also affecting schools, especially as poverty rises. Absolute child poverty has risen by half a million since 2010. This affects attainment much more than most other factors. Schools are increasingly having to tackle problems such as hungry or homeless children.
The second major problem is a recruitment and retention crisis, caused by attacks on teachers and the failure of the new teacher training scheme. Under the Coalition Government, the real value of teacher pay fell by some 15 per cent and teachers also had to pay higher pension contributions. Unfair performance-related pay has been used to block pay progression for teachers. The government plans to extend the 1 per cent pay cap to 2020.
We now have a growing recruitment and retention crisis as teachers leave the profession and fewer teachers are trained. The Coalition introduced a new school based training path called School Direct, whereby schools recruit their own trainees.This has already damaged university providers of training and some have pulled out of teacher education entirely.
Research by Professor John Howson has led him to conclude that the number of new teachers will be insufficient to make up the shortfall, especially in some key subject areas, which include design technology (57% shortfall) and physics – the Dfe wanted to recruit 1,055 physics teachers this year, but only managed 730. Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, has been forced to admit there is a shortage of maths teachers. Howson says that if this pattern is repeated this year it will ‘lead to a teacher supply crisis of a magnitude not seen since the early 2000s.’ These shortages are leading to a rise in class sizes, a growing use of supply teachers and unqualified teachers, as well as schools dropping some subjects altogether.
The NUT is calling for excessive workload to be tackled, additional funding to cope with rising school numbers and a rise in teachers’ pay to attract trainees and retain the workforce. We don’t have many details yet on Labour’s new education policies, but a good step forward will be the possible commitment to return academies and free schools to local government control.
Any nation that wishes to succeed needs a well educated workforce. It is short sighted in the extreme not to invest in future workers and to lay the foundations of a successful economy.
NUT Manifesto Vote For Education – excellent pamphlet
NUT National Lobby of Parliament for Education Funding 18th November form