“And the needle returns to the start of the song and we all carry on like before” Nothing Ever Happens. Del Amitri
Like many I listened to the School funding debate at the houses of Parliament on the afternoon of Monday 7th March. Also, like many I had signed the petition which had led to the debate. 100,000+ signatures on a petition to force there to be a debate on a subject that seems to have been prevalent in my mind for most of my time as a headteacher - funding and finances. I was heartened as over 2.5 hours MP after MP stood to make the case for funding in their constituency - each of them had a slightly different take on the funding issue dependent on their political allegiance but all of them made the same point, something must be done! It isn't political and it is a crisis - it should be to our national collective shame that we are in this situation. Following this clarion call from MPS Nick Gibb stood to speak, I held my breath. He responded and trotted out the same, by now boringly familiar, set of statistics in regard to this government's approach to funding -more money than ever Blah blah blah. I should think everyone had the same response, had he not listened? It’s not political Nick! Headteachers up and down the land need help!
Nick fiddled whilst education burned.
What must it have felt like to be a headteacher the following day? To have gone back to the balance sheet with no hope of a lifeline to look at the shortening list of increasingly unpalatable solutions. I know how it felt, I've been there - no hope of a saviour here. Maybe we should launch a charity campaign 'Education relief'. Stacey Dooley could visit a headteacher or two for a VT, we could all wear red noses and tell each other jokes - did you hear the one about Nick Gibb? We'll laugh so hard that tears will stream down our face.
Of course, in the following few days a number of stories broke about the steps headteachers were taking to save money. MP Jess Phillips' school have decided to close early on a Friday. She is rightly outraged, taking to twitter to berate Damian Hinds. I know the anguish that the headteacher will have had, in both making and then going public on this decision. They will have thought long and hard about the impact.
- What will happen to the children?
- What impact will it have on parents?
- Will it affect the education or the outcomes for children?
The answers to all of these questions will be negative, Lord knows we have spent enough time telling parents of the importance of high attendance, we all know the figures, we all know the impact of non-attendance on educational outcomes.
What choice do they have? Hobsons. it will have been this or something else, class sizes of 40 plus? Who knows? What I do know is that this will have been the lesser of 2 evils, with the sad thing being that evil 2 will be coming shortly as this government continues to ignore the reality that is being faced by schools across England.
If the funding is in crisis, what does that say about SEND funding? What's bigger than a crisis? A disaster? The now chronic situation for SEND funding is both a mirror and a magnifying glass for the society that we are becoming. The public sector wide under-funding and therefor dismantling of any agency that might be able to offer support to the most vulnerable and most needy in our society is coming to roost. What's left? Schools. What have they got? Nothing? I feel sorry for parents of children with SEND and those who remain on the frontline to offer whatever support they can in equal measure - the problem is, neither wants my pity. Neither do they want to hear how understanding the government is. I would guess that they would prefer support, they would prefer that their children feel like a valued member of a caring society. At my school we'd stretched our SEND funding so thin you could get a musical note out of it... perhaps if we all played the note at the same time it would be loud enough for someone at the DFE to take notice? Then again if 100000 people shouting wasn't loud enough, what hope is there?
This is David Cameron's Big Society writ large - you want an education for your children? You want support for the vulnerable? Organise it yourself.