Schools are on their knees and we parents are paying the price
PUBLISHED: 16:59 03 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:59 03 April 2019
While our MPs are bickering in Parliament, parents are being forced to put their hands in their pockets to pay for school books. It's time to stop messing us about, says Rachel Moore
Three years ago, when a divided Britain trudged to the polls, it was voting for our children’s future.
This week, parliament’s Brexit squabbles escalated to worse than any Year One fall-outs about whose crayons are whose, while their headteachers cleaned school toilets because they’ve run out of budget.
Protesters showed their bottoms in the House to the increasingly shocking conduct of those elected and paid to represent the will of the people, while teachers took pay cuts to save the jobs of classroom assistants.
In the more and more rarefied haven of Westminster, cries of treachery, incompetence and double-dealing were heard as its behaviour showed no regard to the 66million people they should be representing.
As the spectacle unfolded, a mother-of-four spoke for parents everywhere.
“I’ve received SIX requests of ‘voluntary donations’ for various different things from my oldest daughters (sic) school in the last month,” she wrote on Twitter.
“And now received a letter ‘please donate to the school as we are running out of money.’ Taking the mick now. I’ve already paid about £50!”
The words fiddling while Rome burns come to mind.
While the Brexit-absorbed parliament continue to display unprecedented levels of self-serving, disloyalty and game-playing, schools are on their knees.
MPs have been charged by these parents to work together – they don’t know the meaning – to secure the best outcome for these children.
Children are taught at an early age the benefits of collaboration for the best outcome and be kind and tolerant in that collaboration.
What example are MPs setting for the generations they are supposed to be working for?
As they bicker and posture, education and other public services are out of mind, and all being squeezed into making drastic cuts.
This week a primary school in London balanced its books by its teachers taking voluntary pay cuts to avoid making two classroom assistants redundant, pushing their salaries down to 80pc of what they should be.
Five teachers dedicated to their vocation agreed to salary shaves of up to £7,000 a year.
Headteacher Monica Kitchlew-Wilson said: “Without these voluntary pay cuts, we could not run the service we provide for the children and would be delivering a poorer, less balanced curriculum.”
“Our children deserve better.” Never a truer word spoken.
“This is not a frivolous luxury,” she goes on. ”It is the excellent education our children deserve to have. Teaching staff are committed to keep this ideal alive and some were prepared to make the sacrifice of reducing their pay.”
The point is that they shouldn’t have to. Teachers deserve their salaries. Headteachers shouldn’t be spending their weekends squirting Toilet Duck in the boys’ loos and scrubbing floors.
Schools shouldn’t be closing on Friday lunchtimes to save money. Headteachers shouldn’t be raising money on social media by crowd-funding for essential equipment. It is a national disgrace. Children and families are being let down.
Parents shouldn’t be expected to provide the basics like pens and glue. Headteachers shouldn’t be forced to resort to begging already-strapped families to deliver an adequate service to their children.
The cold hard truth is that school funding per pupil has fallen by 8pc in real terms in the last eight years, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It’s nothing short of disgusting.
Headteachers tell how their primary schools have a £60,000 cut in funds for next year.
A headteacher, who cleans the school and serves in the canteen to save on costs, said there was just £10 per pupil in her secondary school to buy all the basic equipment needed, including books for science. They get £1.50 per student per year to buy the equipment they need to learn.
“It’s just a phenomenal amount of cuts in schools on an everyday basis,” she said.
And we wonder why we lag behind other countries in delivering the right skills and education to our children – those European countries we are bickering about divorcing from. The countries that invest in education and see it as fundamental to its future prosperity, success and development.
Special needs support and pastoral care is being hugely slashed, which exacerbates social problems for the future.
When a nation’s school funding needs to be increased by £5.7bn to achieve the basic expectations of a core curriculum in a safe well-maintained building with a qualified teacher and all the pastoral, safeguarding and special educational needs support, that country is in trouble. Never mind Brexit.
Analysis by the Association of School and College Leaders concludes that it is obvious that economising and squeezing efficiencies will never bridge that funding gap.
Only additional investment from the Treasury is the answer.
Do our politicians even care? Are they so absorbed they are in their own party, and increasingly personal, agendas, they have lost sight of what they should be doing?
They have clearly forgotten they have been charged to engineer Brexit by the people in the best interests of the future generations.