Dear Prime Minister,
If we want a fair society for all, we should begin with an education system that works for everyone. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds need more resources devoted to them to help them make the same progress as their more fortunate classmates.
The government is right that we need a new funding formula for schools. It is right that this formula should contain a significant element of funding for disadvantaged pupils. Contrary to recent claims there is no 'double funding' in the proposed formula. In fact the new formula will allocate less to some financially deprived children than the previous arrangements. There are many different barriers to learning: from poverty to mobility, to English as an additional language, to low prior attainment and special educational needs. Each of these need support and, where they are found together, pupils need proportionally more support. The formula attempts to balance the different demands.
The exciting thing is that, with the right resources, these barriers can be overcome. This is being demonstrated every day in schools across the country. The Government should learn the lessons from schools that successfully challenge disadvantage to calculate the cost of their work and then provide the same resources for every school.
The problem we face is not the new formula. The debate must move on. The true problem is that the Treasury is not investing enough in education in the first place. If there isn't enough to go round, then no formula can be truly effective.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies, the National Audit Office and the Education Policy Institute have all made clear that schools are facing a large real terms cut in funding. The consensus figure is £3 billion per year cut by 2020.
The impact of this will soon become evident to every parent. Extracurricular activity like music, drama and school trips will be cut; class sizes will grow; fewer subjects will be offered; specialist support for vulnerable children will decline and thresholds for intervention will rise to dangerous levels; experienced teachers will be made redundant; and zero hours and interim contracts will mean children face a steady stream of unknown teachers. This is not efficiency; this is impoverishment.
These cuts are, at root, nothing to do with the funding formula. Let's consult, revise and implement the new formula. But, at the same time, the Treasury must fund it properly by reversing the real terms cuts and investing in our schools. Education spending has fallen from 5.9% of the nation’s wealth in 2010 and is rapidly headed towards just 4% in 2020, the lowest level in 60 years. This is a choice, not an inevitable consequence of austerity.
Mary Bousted, general secretary ATL
Russell Hobby, general secretary NAHT
Kevin Courtney, general secretary NUT