Three months ago, Education Minister Lord Agnew offered to betting every director with a “bottle of champagne and a letter of recommendation” that he could find unnecessary spending at his school. It was a crude, dejected commentary made at a time when some schools close early on Friday to save money.
The government’s response to concerns over declining school funding was restrained from the start. The analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that real funding per student in England has fallen by 8% over the past decade. This is the biggest cut in school funding in three decades. However, the government claims to have invested more money in schools than ever before. However, the figure does not take into account inflation and a significant increase in student numbers over the decade. He was rightly reprimanded by the UK Bureau of Statistics for using distorted and exaggerated figures. David Spiegelhalter, President of the Royal Statistical Society, concluded last year, “For a department that is responsible for the numerical capabilities of the country, this is shameful.”
Schools need to find savings in ways that can impact their education. In Birmingham, many elementary schools end on a Friday noon. In other areas, some schools were delayed until November. Others have created Amazon Wish List to encourage parents to buy basic items such as pens and gluesticks. Some bosses report that they are doing tasks such as driving the minibus and cleaning to counter the staff shortage. It’s no wonder that Chancellor Philip Hammond’s pledge to pay 400 million pounds for “little extras” like white boards caused so much trouble.
But schools face more than significant cuts in their own households. Schools really are the first public service, the only part of the state that children come into contact with day after day. If other services are expanded, they must compensate for the problem.
And what the government has amassed at its doors goes far beyond the drop in school fees. Schools also compete with even more significant cuts for child welfare services run by community councils supporting their most vulnerable students. In the English councils, government subsidies have been cut by almost half since 2010. Childcare expenditure has been cut by nearly a third since 2010 in all areas. However, they are the least-needed areas of greatest need, where councils can not trust the tax base council of the most affluent areas – they have to endure the worst.
Spending on children in the poorest areas has fallen six times faster than in the richest. This means that teachers who can no longer rely on social services, educational psychologists and psychosocial services will support children’s learning with emotional and behavioral problems. It is increasingly difficult for the system to bring children to safety, and the increasing incidence of knife crime is just one symptom.
In addition, child poverty will reach record levels by 2022 due to benefit cuts and tax credits for low-income families. The schools are facing the terrible daily consequences, not the ministers in Whitehall. Principals report that children go gray with hunger; Some schools wash dirty uniforms for families who can not do it themselves.
Conservative Chancellors argue since 2010 that austerity is a necessary price we must pay to put the nation’s books in order. This is simply wrong: even if they have curtailed benefits and support for low-income families with children, they have provided expensive tax breaks for richer families and businesses.
Contrast this with Agnew’s Champagne Bet or Hammond’s “little extras” and it’s clear the government has heard the school’s resources. But ignore the teachers who sound the alarm bell at their own risk. They tell the ministers something that they should know is the case: 10 years of austerity will ruin the lives of a generation of children in the coming years.